Portland Tenant Advocates Have Joined the Fight Against Parking Requirements

Portland City Hall seems to have learned its lesson about parking minimums raising rents.

On Wednesday, City Council decided to continue to allow developers in Northwest Portland to build apartments without including parking spots in their developments.

Parking requirements had become a battleground between neighborhood groups, concerned about the headache of finding a parking spot in Northwest, against public transit and affordable housing advocates vigilant against any moves that increase the price of housing.

In the midst of Portland's record housing price increases, that latter argument won the day.

But perhaps more interesting was who made the argument.

The hearing demonstrated a subtle shift in who's advocating for policies that help increase housing supply.

Among those testifying against the adding parking minimums was Margot Black, an organizer of Portland Tenants United.

While her group hasn't formally taken a position on development and will continue to focus on renters' rights, she's pushing for more Portlanders to understand that housing supply is part of the answer.

"Tenants rights activist need to get a grip," she says. "It's gross to decide who is entitled to Portland if we call ourselves progressive. If we limit that, it's going to be the richest people who win."

As WW reported in March, the Planning and Sustainability Commission overruled a recommendation from its own staff and a push from neighbor groups to institute requirements for new buildings over 30 units to include parking.

In most of Portland, developers must include parking for large apartment buildings—a restriction that Mayor Charlie Hales helped institute in 2013 shortly into his first year in office. Economists argue that such parking requirements add costs that developers pass along to renters.

City Council appeared Wednesday to be realizing the effects of the decision they made in 2013.

"I think there is traction for reforming the 2013 minimums with exemptions for affordable housing…and ideally a more practical threshold," says Tony Jordan, founder of Portlanders for Parking Reform, which advocates for progressive parking policies.

"All in all, I'm pretty happy, but obviously we need to keep organizing, educating, and pushing for better parking policy."

Update: This post has been updated to include the current name of Jordan's organization. They are now Portlanders for Parking Reform–formerly, Portland Shoupistas.

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