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Auto parking or affordable housing? Portland Mayor says debate is “over”

Posted by on May 9th, 2017 at 12:25 pm

Mayor Wheeler speaking at the Rose City Park Neighborhood Association meeting last week.
(Photo from video. Watch it below)

This article was written by Tony Jordan, founder of Portlanders for Parking Reform. It originally appeared on his website on May 4th and has been re-published here with his permission.

————

Convenient parking is a problem in parts of Portland, Mayor Ted Wheeler conceded last week. But it’s a smaller problem than housing — and Wheeler says that when the two come in conflict, housing must be the priority.

The mayor’s words came at a Rose City Park Neighborhood meeting April 25th. Wheeler was asked by RCPNA board member Deborah Field what his plan was to “require developers to put in ample parking spaces” with new housing projects.

The mayor’s response was definitive:

“But I want to put a marker down. The debate: Parking vs. Housing? It’s really over. That piece of the conversation is over. When younger families or younger people say they want to locate here, the first thing they’re saying isn’t ‘Boy I wish I had another parking space, or had access to a parking space.” What they’re saying is, “I can’t afford to live in this city.” And, so, the city, meaning the debate that happened over the last three years actually made a choice, and the choice was affordability and housing over access to parking. I just want you to be aware that that is a real dynamic and is a real choice and it was made with full community involvement.”

The mayor told the crowd that, “parking adds significantly to the cost of affordable housing.”

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(This is true for both market-rate and publicly backed homes, for the simple reason that urban space costs money. You can read more about the effect of excessive parking on housing prices here.)

He suggested that neighborhoods, like Rose City Park, which want to manage their parking supply should form parking districts similar to those in Northwest Portland and the Central Eastside Industrial District.

The Portland Bureau of Transportation has spent years working to develop a framework for neighborhoods to create parking permit zones and parking benefit districts, but the policy has yet to be voted on by Portland City Council. Wheeler said he wouldn’t suggest simply taking the plan from NW Portland and moving it to Rose City Park, seemingly a contradiction to Commissioner Saltzman’s position that NW Portland is conducting a pilot for other neighborhoods to follow.

The mayor’s comments can be read here or viewed below (starting at 35:30):

— Tony Jordan: @pdxshoupistas on Twitter

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John Liu
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John Liu

Is there any actual data on the affordability of the new apartments built with no parking?

I am troubled by the uninformed way that these issues are being debated here and elsewhere, and possibly at city hall. If the data – as opposed to cherry-picked anecdotes – showed that no-parking apartments were just as unaffordable as parking-available apartments, might that not be worth knowing?

Much of the debate seems to be unaware of how a market economy works. The price of a thing (an apartment, an iPhone, a bicycle) is barely related to the cost of the thing. Cost sets the floor for price. But demand sets the price. If demand for no-parking apartments is high, then those apartments will be expensive, regardless of whether parking is available. In today’s Portland, that is quite likely. Otherwise, the price of a new iPhone 7 would be $300.

Chris Anderson
Guest

Parking policy has knock-on effects that make whole classes of housing unbuildable. I’ll let the experts chime in but I think removing the parking brake from the local housing supply will make a material difference in the number of units, and assuming demand is finite, the affordability of Portland.

Hello, Kitty
Subscriber
Hello, Kitty

For practical purposes, we should consider demand infinite, at least until the economy tanks or prices reach equilibrium with other west coast cities.

soren
Guest
soren

“Much of the debate seems to be unaware of how a market economy works.”

In a market economy a 2% vacancy rate would be impossible. Could it be that your Econ 101 metaphor is a vast oversimplification?

alankessler
Subscriber
alankessler

It’s worse than an econ 101 metaphor, Soren. It’s a mid-semseter D- econ quiz metaphor:

“Cost sets the floor for price. But demand sets the price.”

“Cost sets the floor for price” — sure, in a market where there is a low barrier to entry, the price will approach the point of zero marginal profit. Housing is not a low-barrier sort of market. You need land, labor, and materials, which are all in scarce supply currently. Moreover, your land needs to be zoned so that you can legally build a profitable development.

You can sanity test this point by asking yourself the question: “Where in Portland can I buy a house for the cost of materials + labor to construct it?” If you’re not able to come up with an answer, the price hasn’t reached the cost floor.

“But demand sets the price.” — Yes, if the supply curve is static, demand sets the price. The entire point of advocating for eliminating parking minimums is to move the supply curve.

Middle of the Road Guy
Guest
Middle of the Road Guy

what if the parking minimums were below ground? Then there is no net loss of units.

Hello, Kitty
Subscriber
Hello, Kitty

Will someone please consider the molemen?

Patrick Barber
Guest
Patrick Barber

But building underground parking into an apartment building can double or triple the cost of the whole project.

Bill Basford
Guest
Bill Basford

Yes, a developer could still build the same number of units, but at a much higher cost per unit, and a much higher monthly rent required to cover the extra cost.

Hello, Kitty
Subscriber
Hello, Kitty

If the developer can charge the higher rent, he will, even with the lower development cost.

John Liu
Guest
John Liu

I think you misread the phrase you quoted, which was “cost sets the floor for price”.

This says that selling price of new housing won’t be below the cost of that housing.

I assume you agree with that. Developers generally don’t build to lose money.

Nowhere did I say anything about marginal profit going to zero. That’s a straw man you came up with.

John Liu
Guest
John Liu

Why do you say that?

The reason for the low vacancy rate and high rents is pretty simple.

Prior to 2007, new housing units were being built at the rate of about 15,000 units per year in the Portland metro area, while household growth was only about 5,000 to 14,000 per year. Portland was being overbuilt, and you might remember all the see-through buildings in South Waterfront and elsewhere. Rents were relatively low.

In 2007 the Great Recession started, bank financing for new apartments dried up, so new housing units collapsed to about 4,000 by 2009. Rents were still relatively low.

It took a long time for banks to work their way out of the financial crisis and resume lending, so new housing units didn’t get back to 10,000 until 2013. But household growth remained somewhat steady during the recession and has been climbing. Thus rents are high.

The above is how a market economy works. Things move in cycles, cycles aren’t necessarily coordinated, and prices move in response, both up and down.

What is happening right now?

New housing units are rising every year, but banks are still cautious after their near-death experience and construction labor is in very short supply, so new housing units are still not back to 2007 levels. Still, supply is rising. The rise in rents has slowed, if not reversed.

The problem is that the new supply is at the higher price levels. Lots of high-end (luxury) and mid-range apartments going up, not many low-end (affordable) apartments.

Makes sense. The demand for high-end is there, it is more profitable to build high-end than low-end, and bank financing is easier to get. So when a builder decides what to use his valuable parcel of land for, the easy decision is luxury or mid-range.

What the city needs to do is find ways to steer new some fraction of construction activity away from high-end to low-end. No-parking isn’t going to do it. A systematic program of financial incentives might do it. We could exempt affordable housing projects from system development charges, construction excise tax, permit fees, property taxes. At the same time we could raise those charges on luxury housing projects. We could allow affordable projects to have higher density, greater height and coverage limits. While maintaining limits on luxury projects. We could move affordable projects to the head of the permit processing queue. Let the luxury projects take longer to get through permitting.

Eventually we’d find the right formula to make it financially attractive to build affordable projects.

To do this, we’ll have to jettison some myths.

One is the myth that lower construction cost (e.g. no parking) means lower rental price. We’ve discussed that a lot. price > cost, price =/= cost.

Another is the myth that 2-unit to 4-unit buildings will naturally be more affordable. They won’t. The cost per unit of these is really high, because you’re using that expensive piece of land for only 2-4 units, instead of for 20-30 units. And again price > cost, price =/= cost. (So why are old duplex-fourplex units often affordable? Hint: because they are OLD.)

soren
Guest
soren

“pretty simple”

Portland has had an apartment shortage for decades:
comment image

Moreover, a significant body of literature suggests that land use policies and play a major role in the engineered scarcity of affordable rental housing in cities:

Why is housing unaffordable to the poor? The current high
prices for low-income housing are not only the natural result of
cruel market forces; they are the result of supply restrictions distorting
the market.21 Zoning regulations prescribe the permissible
uses of land and thus control the supply of developable land.22 As
demand for housing increases—and it must, due to sheer population
growth—zoning regulations that restrict the supply of developable
land will increase housing prices.23 To be sure, there are
other factors that make housing unaffordable to the poor,24 but
the focus of this Article is the distorting effect that exclusionary
zoning regulations have on low-income housing. Moreover, strong
empirical evidence shows that housing is unaffordable to the poor
primarily because of an insufficient supply of low-income housing.25

http://www.stetson.edu/law/lawreview/media/38-2harney-pdf.pdf

John Liu
Subscriber

Extent of land zoned for high density residential is not the limiting factor.

Consider a 5,000 sq ft parcel can fit an apartment building with 29 housing units (800 sq ft = 2-3 bedrooms) in 6 stories. A city block on a corridor like, say, Division has about 22 parcels on either side, and all are zoned for such a building. 20 such blocks = 13,000 housing units. So essentially, a single 20 block stretch of any of Portland’s commercial corridors has enough developable and appropriately zoned land to house some 40,000 persons.

The city’s 2012 Buildable Lands Inventory (BLI) showed that Portland has enough developable land, under then-current zoning, to build enough housing units to DOUBLE the population of the city. With new zoning (2035 Comprehensive Plan), the city can fit even more people.

The problem with the supply of affordable housing is not lack of land. It is that building market-rate and high-end housing is much, much more financially attractive.

dwk
Guest
dwk

IT is mainly a giveaway to developers.
I see no difference in rents of parking vs no parking new buildings, so the developers just pocket the money they would have spent and the apartment owners just park their cars on the surrounding neighborhood streets.

Chris Anderson
Guest

I can agree with you and still think it’s good for affordability. All I’m saying is that in the long run we’ll have more units if we get comfortable without parking. Especially in the form of infill, multi-unit buildings that look like the ones that are all over our neighborhoods, but aren’t being built today in part due to parking policy.

soren
Guest
soren

As a renter, I would prefer to live in a city that does not determine rental housing policy based on personal anecdotes.

Tony’s piece explicitly references an article with multiple citations: http://www.sightline.org/2013/08/22/apartment-blockers/

There is also an academic literature suggesting that parking requirements increase per unit cost while reducing the total number of units. For example: http://shoup.bol.ucla.edu/HighCost.pdf.

dwk
Guest
dwk

Your links are just generic costs.
If you don’t like personal anecdotes, show me the cheap rents that have resulted from allowing builders to build apartments in Portland without parking….

soren
Guest
soren

“If you don’t like personal anecdotes, show me the cheap rents that have resulted”

Do you understand what anecdote means?

dwk
Guest
dwk

I do, and you ignore every request from anyone on this site to ever provide evidence of any of your constant assertions.

dwk
Guest
dwk

Soren is apparently shielded from any kind of intellectual debate.
There are about 15 commenters who dominate the discussion.
I would think you would want more, not less, yet you continue to moderate reasonable posts from people who you disagree with.
Your website….
You should want more than 15 or so regulars….

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)
Admin

you’re exactly right dwk.

I do want more people to join the discussion. That’s why I delete comments that I feel are mean or insulting or insensitive or rude or…

Thing is, the posts I delete have ZERO to do with whether I agree with them or not. It has everything to do with the tone and courtesy toward others. Please be nicer and everything you write will be published. Thanks!

soren
Guest
soren

as can be seen above, i make a point of posting links to studies/reviews that support my comments. an intellectual debate requires more than a strongly stated anecdotal opinion.

Middle of the Road Guy
Guest
Middle of the Road Guy

I’ve got a personal story about what that means.

dwk
Guest
dwk

Links that have nothing to do with the Portland Oregon scene/market.
Your constant “anecdotes’ about density, and house pricing for instance that has
no bearing at in the current market HERE.

michelle
Guest
michelle

Rather than framing it as parking increases costs why don’t we just say building parking decreases their profit. Because that’s what we’re really talking about.

Hello, Kitty
Subscriber
Hello, Kitty

I would say it doesn’t always even do that. Many buildings are built with more than the minimum amount of parking. Auto parking can be more easily converted to bike parking than can a storefront.

alankessler
Subscriber
alankessler

“But demand sets the price.” This is only half right. In a functioning market, the intersection of the supply curve with the demand curve shows the market clearing price (a.k.a. equilibrium price). You can try to change demand by frowning at tourists or whatever, but I doubt you’ll be very successful. If we can’t change demand, then the only way to lower the cost of rent is to increase supply.

Looking at the static system for “data” misses the point. Yes, people are spending everything they have and some they don’t to live in apartments in Portland. Whether or not a home has parking, landlords can charge rents that would be unheard of a decade ago. Whether a particular home with parking in this broken market goes for more than a home without has no bearing on the larger issue.

John Liu
Guest
John Liu

The problem is that the current market price for rent is not 5% of 10% away from what many people need, it is 30% to 50% away.

Increasing supply will over time slow the increase in average rent, maybe stabilize it, and may even bring it down a few percent. But when that average rent is around $1,700 for a 2-bedroom, that translates to maybe in a few years average rent will be $1,400 to $1,800? . . . Not really good enough, not for many Portlanders.

I make my living in the most capitalist part of the economy that there is, and have done for almost twenty years now. I’m very aware of how the free market economy works, and where it doesn’t work. A simple “Build, Baby, Build” approach is not going to produce affordable housing for low-income Portlanders. We need more focused city action.

alankessler
Subscriber
alankessler

No doubt. I’m a strong advocate of tenant protections to help people currently struggling. I’m also for public housing, as much and as quickly as possible.

Nobody said “build baby build.” There are certain regulations that we’ve placed on the market that have an out-sized harmful impact. Requiring car storage is one of the major distortions that resulted in less supply than there should have been. I don’t understand why you’re defending parking minimums.

John Liu
Guest
John Liu

Hmm, how is it possible that 15,000 units were built in 2007, when parking was required?

Grant
Guest
Grant

“If demand for no-parking apartments is high, then those apartments will be expensive, regardless of whether parking is available. ”

The problem, John, is that there is no such thing as a no parking apartment.* What we have are apartments with an effectively unlimited supply of free on-street parking. It might not be as convenient as a covered space in your building, but at that price point, who can blame people for utilizing it? Applying classical economics to the parking situation in Portland neighborhoods leads you to the tragedy of the commons: if you give something desirable away for free, of course it is over consumed. We are a long way from anything resembling a rational market.

*Exception: in the few areas of town that have parking meters, on-street parking is generally not available for long-term car storage. But in the parts of town where this is an issue

Middle of the Road Guy
Guest
Middle of the Road Guy

How does building apartments with no parking alleviate that?

Shoupian
Subscriber
Shoupian

There is an abundance of empirical evidence out there that shows that parking drives up housing costs by (1) making development much more costly and (2) reduce the number of housing units built.

Even the Portland Bureau of Planning and Sustainability has released a study to show how parking drives up housing costs. To call the debate “informed” when you haven’t tried to make yourself informed only shows that you are not genuinely concerned about housing affordability.

John Liu
Guest
John Liu

It is clear that parking increases the cost of building a unit. But why do you assume that the cost of building a unit determines the rental price for that unit?

When marketing folks determine the price to charge for something, they don’t start with what it cost.

Hello, Kitty
Subscriber
Hello, Kitty

A rational landlord will rent their units for as much as the market will pay, regardless of the cost of construction. It is not true that lower construction costs lead to lower rents. It just leads to higher profits.

SurleyDave
Subscriber
SurleyDave

I read this last month–it talks about how parking became part of city codes and the cost of it for users. Pretty interesting. Made me question how we allocate street parking. It seems to me that Portland is moving in progressive direction with regard to parking codes, but there is still a pain point as most people still use cars.

http://www.economist.com/news/briefing/21720269-dont-let-people-park-free-how-not-create-traffic-jams-pollution-and-urban-sprawl?utm_source=nextdraft

Dawn
Guest
Dawn

I only wish he hadn’t phrased this part in this way: “When younger families or younger people say they want to locate here, the first thing they’re saying isn’t ‘Boy I wish I had another parking space, or had access to a parking space.” What they’re saying is, “I can’t afford to live in this city.” ”

I think this continues to create and us vs. them model and builds further resentment in long term Portland residents who feel slighted, perturbed, irritated (choose your verb) about the influx of new residents. The fact is that housing is not just unaffordable for people moving here from out of state or city, but it’s unaffordable for all of those long term residents too. The city is changing whether people like it or not and we need housing for people not cars.

soren
Guest
soren

I fixed it for the Mayor:

When families or young people are no cause-evicted out of their substandard rental housing the first thing they’re saying isn’t ‘Boy I wish I had another parking space, or had access to a parking space.” What they’re saying is, “I can’t afford to live in this city.”

9watts
Guest
9watts

I agree with soren!

thanks, Tony, for the excellent piece, and the prompt which caused this strange confluence.

Lester Burnham
Guest
Lester Burnham

Wheeler is already failing. He’s seeing just how “ungovernable” Portland really is. Thanks Kitzhaber.

John Liu
Guest
John Liu

Not accurate.

There are about 16,000 housing units that were rushed into the permitting pipeline to beat the effective date of inclusionary zoning (IZ). The development industry doesn’t need to start building IZ units until 2020 or so.

IZ only applies to projects of 20 or more units. (code 33.245)

Under city rules, regardless of IZ, parking is not required for developments up to 30 units that are within 500 feet of transit streets or 1500 feet of transit centers. (code 33.266)

In other words, a no-parking apartment building up to 30 units on a transit street can be built without a single affordable unit for the next 2 years or so, and a no-parking apartment building up to 20 units on a transit street can be built without a single affordable unit at any time.

OregonJelly
Guest
OregonJelly

What’s more important, publicly subsidized parking or Vision Zero?

Effectively one-way streets, not being able to see ongoing traffic until you’re in the roadway, and incessant circling for parking are creating unsafe roads for all users. It certainly sounds like Wheeler is doubling down on unsafe streets.

If you can’t afford to store you car, you can’t afford your car.

David Hampsten
Guest
David Hampsten

Apparently you have never been east of 82nd where a third of Portland’s residents live and where parking has never been an issue except near light rail stations on weekdays. The norm there of off-street parking results in higher traffic speeds and far more deaths from pedestrians getting hit by cars.

The nice thing about all the parked cars in inner Portland is that all those cars circling around looking for parking are slowing all the other cars down, often to a crawl. Yes, your view is obstructed, forcing you to slow down further and move much more cautiously. Remember, getting hit by a fast car is nearly always fatal for non-car victims, but is often survivable if the car is moving less than 20 mph. So if you are in favor of Vision Zero (0 deaths, nothing about injuries), you should be an active campaigner for city-subsidized on-street parking, even to the point of banning off-street options.

Greg Spencer
Guest

I bet if we put our heads together, we could think of something other than cheap on-street parking to control vehicle speeds. Maybe even something more environment-friendly.

David Hampsten
Guest
David Hampsten

Random piles of gravel with a few PDX Transformation cones here and there, like the city has started street repairs and everything is “in progress”. Drivers are hard-wired to avoid anything in bright orange and hate gravel on their tires. Add some blue blinky lights at night, as if the police are doing a sting. “Accidentally” drop a pail of bright neon orange paint at a busy intersection at 2:30 am on a Tuesday, say at Stark & 122nd. The possibilities are endless.

Bill Stites
Subscriber

Great to hear the mayor acknowledge the trade-off between affordable housing and parking, and that it has been studied and policy set accordingly.

I haven’t heard much about EQUITY in the parking discussions. Why is it that car-owners have access to a public resource – the street – in the form of free/low-cost parking, and non-car-owners don’t? I haven’t owned a car in more than 20 years, but I would love to have a 10 x 20 space to store my crap on the street [not really].
This speaks to the idea that we really need to price this public-storage-for-private-benefit [parking] at a market rate.

Something fundamental around equity here … would appreciate some lawyers chewing on the idea.

wsbob
Guest
wsbob

There’s the abuse of street parking in neighborhoods, where some people will park a heap, and not move it for weeks. Probably similar solution in Portland, but in Beaverton, the way the city handles that problem, based in some part on citizen complaints, I expect, is that the city plasters a big red warning on the vehicle’s windshield, giving the owner a limited time, a week or so, to get it moved…if not, it’s tow time.

I don’t think that street parking that people don’t have to directly pay for, is necessarily a bad thing. On a case by case basis, sometimes measures need to be taken to counter abuse…like on streets in the neighborhood around the Timber’s soccer stadium, for example. Downtown needs paid parking of course, and parts of town where there lots of shopping, dining and employment tend to need it.

Generally quiet neighborhoods some distance, say a half mile or so from major destinations, maybe shouldn’t need it. Residents and their friends and guests ought to be able to park on the street out front of their house, without the hassle of plugging the meter, or having permits. The city constantly looking to use street parking as a gold mine, gets to be excessive.

Greg Spencer
Guest

Free is just the wrong price for parking — anywhere in the city IMO. Because if the user doesn’t pay, everyone else pays in some fashion: all the externalities associated with car use — congestion, noise, pollution, crashes, etc. Paying doesn’t need to be a hassle either — residential parking, for instance, can be paid as an annual fee for permit.

Hello, Kitty
Subscriber
Hello, Kitty

Parking, especially on the residential level, is not one of the major externalities of auto reliance. I’d prefer to structure increased fees to encourage vehicles to remain parked rather than used.

Free Market Economist
Guest
Free Market Economist

Car owners already pay to park our cars via taxes. Car owners pay for the streets that YOU use via taxes. There is no free parking in the USA. There is no free anything. Someone pays. Follow the money.

9watts
Guest
9watts

Cute, but not correct.

“Car owners already pay to park our cars via taxes.”
what taxes are you thinking of – property taxes? Well except that those without cars also pay those, so it isn’t nearly as direct as you suggest, and the costs that private motor vehicles exact on society are in this case not borne by the owners/drivers of said vehicles but by all of us who pay property taxes. Or did you have some other tax in mind?

“Car owners pay for the streets that YOU use via taxes.”

Hahaha. That is a good one. Not even close. The only TAXES I know of that car owners pay are gas taxes, and we all know that these don’t even come close to covering the car-related direct costs (and we won’t even talk about the myriad indirect costs). I recommend VTPI’s Whose Roads? It should clear up the misconceptions that are piling up here. http://www.vtpi.org/whoserd.pdf

“There is no free parking in the USA.”

Well perhaps you will appreciate—your misunderstandings above notwithstanding—that the (auto) parking situation here in the USA is not (typically) priced, so it is essentially free. The fact that Someone has paid, is paying, will continue to pay to provide the free-parking-to-the-guy-in-the-car doesn’t mean that someone is the same guy. He may have paid some amount toward the parking through the taxes and fees, but that is not the same thing as parity, full cost accounting, internalization of costs.

“There is no free anything. Someone pays. Follow the money.”

You are right about that, but only if you scale it up to the society. Individuals enjoy lots of free stuff, that others paid for.

rachel b
Guest
rachel b

Thanks, 9watts. Most drivers (and I am one, occasionally) don’t realize just how heavily subsidized driving is.

Hello, Kitty
Subscriber
Hello, Kitty

If we banned on street parking in, say, Richmond, what costs would we really save? I am not at all convinced that existing on street parking costs anything… If anything it slows traffic speeds and serves a positive function.

Free Market Economist
Guest
Free Market Economist

9 you are incorrect.

Yes, car owners already pay for on-street parking. 99% of all home owners are car owners. So you have not heard of license fees, smog test fees, parts recycling fees? All taxes that car owners pay.
On this statement: “You are right about that, but only if you scale it up to the society.” That’s reality. There are no “freebies”. Someone pays or else it doesn’t exist.
Notwithstanding your confusion, I would agree to pay for parking, say $5/month for a 10% reduction in property taxes. Bring it on.

9watts
Guest
9watts

Funny. Your statements here are chock full of misconceptions.

“99% of all home owners are car owners”

Have you looked at the census? I have.
Here where I live (inner SE) the number is 94%. In other parts the number is considerably lower. And why are we excluding renters?

Matt S.
Guest
Matt S.

What constitutes home owners? I know a married couple that are home owners and they own three vehicles.

94% are car owners of how many cars?

9watts
Guest
9watts

“94% are car owners of how many cars?”

I have no idea.

The question we were discussing wasn’t the total number of cars but the statistical relationship between the set of car owners and the total human population. My Ideologue was suggesting they were the same and I am adamant that the two are not the same; that a strategy, investment, priority that favors those in cars is no ipso facto of benefit to everyone, and may in fact represent a measurable disbenefit.

9watts
Guest
9watts

Mr. Idealogue, not My Idealogue. Sorry about that.

Matt S.
Guest
Matt S.

Right, a 1:1 ratio would be the worst!

9watts
Guest
9watts

We really seem to be talking past each other. I wasn’t/am not advocating for or criticizing a particular ratio; I was objecting to asserting that the ratio was 99% when it is quite clearly not. If you were among the 6% of homeowners (in the census tracts I know well) who do not own a car, or knew of this subpopulation, wouldn’t you likely be inclined to register this fact, point out Mr. FME’s error?

Matt S.
Guest
Matt S.

I see what your saying. The distribution of benefits received by car owners aren’t evenly distributed among the entire population even if the ratio is 1:1.

9watts
Guest
9watts

That may be true but is not what I was saying.

I am interested in the fact that the ratio is pointedly not 1:1, and all that follows from that, including the possibility (very real in my view) that the ratio is headed in the other direction; that a growing share of people are jettisoning the car whether because they don’t like it or are seeing the writing on the wall, recognize that the days of the auto are numbered. 2000 census -> 2010 census showed an increase (small but measurable) away from car ownership, again in the census tracts I track.

Matt S.
Guest
Matt S.

I’d have to do research, but my gut feeling is this isn’t true. Millennials love their cars just as much of the baby boomers, its just they can’t afford them as easily. The trend I notice here in Portland — young people move here with low experience and thus work low wage jobs. They bike all over, but as their income goes up, they eventually purchase a vehicle. I include myself in this category. My household has a 1:1 ratio. I want to get it down to .5:l, but we’ll always keep a car. Not to drive around the city but to get out to the mountains. That’s how most of my weekend warrior friends feel as well. Portland is chalk full of this type of user group.

9watts
Guest
9watts

“my gut feeling is this isn’t true.”

here’s where I would start: http://uspirg.org/reports/usp/millennials-motion

Chris Anderson
Guest

I’m reliably 5 years ahead of the mainstream. So expect cargo bikes on network soaps as normality in 2-3 years. And the same timeframe for when the drive-car-only-to-take-the-dog-to-the-mountains crew realizes they are wasting money and time, and could rent a fancy clean car for every weekend getaway and still save money. Rarely go to the gas station, never do maintenance, etc.

I live that life with two kids, and I consider it a luxury not to deal with the downsides of car ownership. Wait a handful of years and the people who own cars full time will look like the people who aren’t using smart phones today…

9watts
Guest
9watts

I’m surprised you’re still hanging out here with us throwbacks.

J Chris Anderson
Guest
J Chris Anderson

You might be ahead of me. I’ve been able to set my clock by this five years thing for a while though.

9watts
Guest
9watts

No, see, just in the last five minutes you added an initial to your name. Always ahead…;-)

Matt S.
Guest
Matt S.

I crunched the numbers on renting for the weekends, it’s just too expensive in comparison to owning an older car. To go out of town every weekend and have to rent, you’re going to spend 300-500 dollars plus gas. I spend nowhere near that. Plus, you can’t put racks and such on rentals.

9watts
Guest
9watts

“To go out of town every weekend…”

Fortunately not everyone feels entitled to this sort of schedule. Sounds exhausting to me.

Matt S.
Guest
Matt S.

We all have different priorities. I drove to Utah last weekend, that trip would have cost us hundred of dollars to rent. And we do it ever year so…

9watts
Guest
9watts

“I drove to Utah last weekend”

My point here is that if you start from the point of having a car, relying on it automatically, reflexively, and can afford all the gas you need, then it is no great surprise that you might find yourself in Utah… But what we need to start coming to grips with is the looming end to this kind of fossil fuel binge. We need to realize that this is nuts, must come to an end.

Matt S.
Guest
Matt S.

I suppose we could have ridden our bikes but it would have been a 20 day round trip. Could have flown, and then rented a car but the greenhouse gass emissions would have been off the charts.

I suppose you don’t travel any where outside of 50 mile radius from your home?

9watts
Guest
9watts

“I suppose you don’t travel any where outside of 50 mile radius from your home?”

Of course I do. In fact my commute this morning was >60 miles. I take the bus or train if it is too far to bike. The Wave to the Coast. Amtrak to California. Once you jettison the car you discover two things – the alternatives, how to make them work, and that you don’t actually need to go to Utah every weekend.

Matt S.
Guest
Matt S.

“All” is too encompassing. We don’t go out every weekend, but our activity definitely ticks up during the nicer weather. And more often than not, we car pool with friends. Have you been to the mountain during a good snow weekend, it’s crazy up there! Or hiked dog mountain when the weather is nice! There are plenty of people who work m-f and bike commute and then take their cars out on the weekend. This is what I do. I looked up the price of a car to rent and it’s not too expensive, about 80 bucks for a three day weekend. But if you did that twice a month during the summer months, you’re still looking at close to 200 dollars. So I don’t know if that’s expensive or not. It’s more than what I pay on my car since it’s paid for. I’m not sure what it would be to do Zipcar.

9watts
Guest
9watts

“Have you been to the mountain during a good snow weekend, it’s crazy up there! Or hiked dog mountain when the weather is nice!”

Are you kidding? I’d much rather sit on my back porch and enjoy the nice weather from there.

Matt S.
Guest
Matt S.

My first six years in Portland was car free, I know how to travel long distances with a bike. I’ve done Amtrak, the bus, I’ve toured for vacations instead of driving. We don’t go to Utah every weekend, just once a year to visit family. We do travel a lot to the Gorge, Bend, Mt. Hood, Coast. We could do the train or bus, but when you factor two tickets and restricted times, it’s just too inconvenient. Plus, you can’t fit a tandem bike on a bus.

Hello, Kitty
Subscriber
Hello, Kitty

You can if it’s a Bike Friday!

mh
Subscriber

I park a quite drivable heap (1980’s “cute ute” that is no longer cute) on the street. It is driven every couple of weeks. The truck taking up the parking pad is driven far less often. I don’t pay for that piece of real estate any more or less than any other Portland resident but I somehow have more right to use it than they do?

Eventually I’ll have to buy an underpriced permit, sort of an institutionalized tragedy of the commons.

Greg Spencer
Guest

“Why is it that car-owners have access to a public resource – the street – in the form of free/low-cost parking, and non-car-owners don’t?”

Amen to that! We’ve also been car-free for 20 years, and not feeling much love from the city (or neighbors) for our trouble. Like you, I have little use for a “10 x 20 space to store my crap”. What would be useful is some improved transit service to make our car-lessness more manageable. Let the city charge market price for all its street parking and plow those revenues into sustainable transport alternatives. Car-free families need some carrots along with the sticks.

Kevin Love
Guest
Kevin Love

The solution is simple: Get a cheap crappy old cube van. Park it on the street and store your stuff in it. I know people who do this. They have looked at the price of a commercial storage unit and realized a van is far cheaper.

rachel b
Guest
rachel b

There’ve been umpteen car break-ins (and thefts) in our neighborhood this week.

Kevin Love
Guest
Kevin Love

And no thief ever breaks into a garage or storage shed? There is a theft risk no matter how I store my stuff. But those who store it in a van get free storage space from the city.

RMHampel
Guest
RMHampel

Greg, how about lower property taxes for those who can prove they don’t use or park a car on their street — an incentive of enough value — just a thought.

Free Market Economist
Guest
Free Market Economist

AND, anyone is free to park their non-car vehicle on the street: motorcycle, bicycle, etc. Would I recommend it? No, but it’s allowed.

Middle of the Road Guy
Guest
Middle of the Road Guy

It is equitable because it is a public good. You don’t have to use it, but you can – just like everyone else.

Middle of the Road Guy
Guest
Middle of the Road Guy

Hit “Post” too quickly.

Can you not park your bike for free? How is that not storing your private property in the public space?

Hello, Kitty
Subscriber
Hello, Kitty

Store your crap like in a little storage shed, a pile of wood chips/soil, or a boat or camper parked near your house? I say go for it! Everyone else does.

rick
Guest
rick

What about Metro’s plans for the giant new parking structure by the Oregon Convention Center?

mran1984
Guest

I like parking on the street in front of my home. It is the best spot for loading mountain bikes. For the yearly sting of a ridiculous property tax it is a very mild, but
beneficial salve as well.

Middle of the Road Guy
Guest
Middle of the Road Guy

I love having a driveway and a garage! Always have a place to park 🙂

rachel b
Guest
rachel b

Since we have no car, we use our driveway for tableaus!

rachel b
Guest
rachel b

😉

Martha Van Dyke
Guest
Martha Van Dyke

What about discouraging the parking as a help to discourage car use to save the planet?

Hello, Kitty
Subscriber
Hello, Kitty

Making residential parking more expensive might deter a few people from owning cars, but wouldn’t deter those that do own them from using them. A carbon tax would be the best way to protect our atmosphere.

Matt S.
Guest
Matt S.

What if there was a policy in place where if you could prove that you didn’t own a car, you then could purchase a subsided Trimet pass?

Or it could be like in Salt Lake, UT. We paid eight bucks an hour for parking in the downtown area. The three hours really added up. Not sure if the price caps out.

Hello, Kitty
Subscriber
Hello, Kitty

The cheap pass for no car is a great idea. I can think of some complexities in administering it, but it seems worth pursuing.

rachel b
Guest
rachel b

Yes. I agree w/ Greg. More carrot! Sheesh!

Externalized Costs
Guest
Externalized Costs

I understand the no parking argument. But it seems like there needs to be a way to assure that the savings will actually go to affordable housing. As it stands it can either go to the developer or the tenant (or some mix of that). If the market will allow it (by externalizing parking costs on the surrounding neighborhood or on the convenience to the tenant, for example), then it won’t result in cheaper housing. For housing right now, it’s a sellers market with the costs easily pushed to the buyer/tenant and then the neighborhood.

Maybe, some sort of strictly enforced neighborhood parking pass where current residents get a free pass but not new tenants. Maybe, if you didn’t want your space, you could auction it off to the highest bidder.

Free Market Economist
Guest
Free Market Economist

Unaffordable housing, unaffordable health insurance – the common denominator is over regulation by government.

Hello, Kitty
Subscriber
Hello, Kitty

In the case of healthcare, how do you distinguish over regulation from under regulation from regulating the wrong things?

Free Market Economist
Guest
Free Market Economist

HK,

Because the nation is divided on what insurance should look like I’d recommend:
> Keep Obama-care as-is for those who want it, except no individual mandate.
> Allow insurers to offer any free-market plans (from bare bones to Cadillac) they want including catastrophic plans for people of any age. No part of the premiums for these policies can be used to subsidize any other policy. Buy across state lines, medical providers required to post costs of procedures on the internet, and give total cost estimate before service is provided.
> Set rules for what happens to people who can afford insurance but choose not to buy it and end up with catastrophic medical costs. Ditto for poor people with no insurance. In no case shall the premiums for the free market policies be affected by these rules.
For example:
Here’s the plan I want for myself in order to get the costs to dirt cheap level:
Buy it like life insurance – premium is determined by deductible, max annual payout, and percentage of charges covered after deductible – all those adjustable. Sign up only once, at any time, but plan does not pay for pre-existing for 90 days from signup. Automatically renews annually if you want to keep it. Only covers medically necessary care after I meet the deductible. Does not pay for physicals, routine office visits, mental health care, addiction treatment, tattoo removal, parts enlargement, gender change, etc – only stuff that is medically necessary due to illness, disease, accident, trauma, etc. I’d also prefer that it include a living will where you state what happens if the costs exceed a set amount that I choose – although I’ve never heard of that in any policy.

Whatcha think?

Matt S.
Guest
Matt S.

Mandates keep young people in the system, without it, people don’t sign up. I’m living proof of that. New job starts in a few weeks. Also. If we have to pay for routine check ups, etc. don’t you think people will go without ins and just pay the office visit? It’s crazy, the only time I’m medically covered is when I’m in my car. 50 bucks a month.

Free Market Economist
Guest
Free Market Economist

Mandates drive the premiums up. If you are forced to buy something, the seller can set the price at any level. That’s exactly what the ACA has done.

Matt S.
Guest
Matt S.

And you think removing this, all of a sudden ins companies are going to lower costs. I doubt it. High risk pools with high deductibles.

Free Market Economist
Guest
Free Market Economist

When I was 33 in the early 1990s I had a plan thru Blue Cross Blue Shield of Washington and Alaska. It was a catastrophic coverage only plan. Cost me $20 per month for a non-smoker; smokers paid more. I could enroll in a plan any day of the year and never had to sign up again – it automatically renewed annually. It did not cover pre-existing conditions for 90 days – I thought that was fair enough. That’s how it was before Ocare!

What does an Ocare plan for a person age 33 cost today? First, you can’t buy one unless you had a “qualifying event” because enrollment has closed! Second, you can’t buy one at all because Ocare doesn’t allow catastrophic plans for anyone over, I believe age 30! So, what is the cheapest Ocare plan for a 33 year old if you did just have a qualifying event? Anyone know? I can’t even check it without giving a bunch of personal data in an online form!

Matt S.
Guest
Matt S.

My friend purchased her health care on the exchange market, she’s 33. Cost her $120 after subsidy. Super high deductible, effeciively catastrophic insurance.

Tough to compare your numbers from 25 years ago. Everything was cheaper back then.

Hello, Kitty
Subscriber
Hello, Kitty

The nation is not as divided as you think; nonetheless, I repeat my question: how do you know that Obamacare over regulated the insurance market, and that removing that regulation will improve it? We already tried that, and it didn’t work very well. What has changed?

Free Market Economist
Guest
Free Market Economist

Under my plan everyone gets what they want.
Insurance was much cheaper before Ocare. Ocare mandates drove costs thru the roof to the point where some markets have few if any insurers willing to offer plans. It was designed to fail as indicated by Mr. Gruber – one of the main architects of Ocare.
My plan allows Ocare to stay as-is. Some will choose to use it. Mostly it will be used by those with pre-existing expensive conditions and by low income folks who want subsidies. Yes, it will be a welfare program – that’s OK with me as long as I don’t have to participate in it other than paying income taxes.
I don’t want subsidies. I want a plan, for me, at age 59, with a $100/month or less premium. It may have a $5K or $10K deductible and have a max annual payout of $50K after deductible. That is far preferable than a $500 premium for an Ocare policy which has unlimited payout, covers all sorts of things that are not medical care, etc.

Hello, Kitty
Subscriber
Hello, Kitty

Under your plan, costs are borne by the sick if they’re not shared across all of society, the way insurance programs are supposed to work. But I’m not going to debate you.

The argument about insurance is following a predictable path, and there is only one endpoint, which is universal coverage. It’s coming, and the Republicans are playing their role in making it happen.

Free Market Economist
Guest
Free Market Economist

My plan keeps Ocare as-is except for no individual mandate. Should also get rid of the employer mandate – it’s costing a lot of people a full time job. Ocare is a welfare program for many who are on it. I have no problem with that if that’s what they want. I don’t want welfare. I want a dirt cheap plan that is nothing other than financial ruin insurance. Should cost me in the ballpark of $100/month – at age 60.

Skid
Guest
Skid

I never had access to health care before Obamacare

Free Market Economist
Guest
Free Market Economist

My plan keeps Ocare for those who want it. You may be one of them. I have no problem with that. I had health care my entire adult life UNTIL Ocare came along – now I have none. Can’t afford a plan without subsidies which are welfare and I don’t want welfare.

Free Market Economist
Guest
Free Market Economist

Ocare cost millions of people a full-time job due to the employer mandate. Now those folks either have no job or have one or more full-time jobs. If I could afford an Ocare policy it would cover maternity care, part enlargement, tattoo removal, gender change, weight loss treatment, mental health, addiction treatment, etc, etc, etc. Those are regulations in Ocare – I will never need those things – that’s why the policies are too expensive – due directly to mandates by Ocare.

That’s all fine – let those who want Ocare have it. Pay for it out of general taxes. Let the rest of us buy a dirt cheap free market plan with no mandates the way we could before Ocare.

The R plan is welfare for insurers via tax credits – same as Ocare is via subsidies.

Today people who get insurance through employers get tax credits because they pay for premiums with before tax dollars. The R plan gives tax credits for those who don’t get insurance from their employer. It is welfare but I think it’s better than Ocare, except they also have mandates so it will, as you say probably be another failure. The government cannot help us on health care – same as they can’t help with much else – the government is the problem, not the solution.

Free Market Economist
Guest
Free Market Economist

I meant to say: Now those folks either have no job or have one or more PART-time jobs.

Hello, Kitty
Subscriber
Hello, Kitty

Is Obamacare why the unemployment rate is so high?

Skid
Guest
Skid

Mental health care isn’t necessary? Are you serious? Obviously you’ve never experienced any serious mental illness, nor has anyone in your life.

Free Market Economist
Guest
Free Market Economist

If you might need it, pay for it. That will add a little to your premium. It usually isn’t expensive like surgery, etc. Should not cost you a lot. I’m old enough to know I won’t need it, and if I do, I’ll have to pay the hourly fee.

Hello, Kitty
Subscriber
Hello, Kitty

Everyone might need it.

Alex Reedin
Guest
Alex Reedin

Someone very close to me thought he was old enough to know he wouldn’t need it, then in his 40s he was hit with a serious suicidal depression requiring weeks of inpatient care. That’s a potential financial catastrophe for almost any family. Medical insurance that doesn’t cover things like that doesn’t meet the fundamental purpose of insurance, which is to spread the cost of catastrophic losses in a particular category across lots of people, so everyone pays a little instead of a few people a lot.

Also, much health insurance is bought through employers, which greatly limits the choices employees have. Health insurance was not a well-operating free market before the ACA, and still isn’t, but I think the ACA, though imperfect, is a clear improvement in the regulatory regime.

John Liu
Guest
John Liu

soren
your absolutism about the trajectory of rats.
Recommended 0

What odd logic. If someone tells you an outcome is highly probable, you automatically assume that outcome must be in his financial self-interest?

(My employment or income does not depend on interest rates. I’m not in the lending business.)

Skid
Guest
Skid

I’m not an economics expert but common sense tells me that until there is affordable housing for those living near or below the poverty line the homeless problem is going to continue to escalate.

Free Market Economist
Guest
Free Market Economist

They will have trouble affording anything, depending on how little income they have. They could move to a lower cost area and that might help their housing problem if they can make about the same income in the new location.