But in Oregon and California, eliminating minimum parking mandates is seen as a way to encourage compact, climate-friendly communities that solve severe housing shortages by making it easier, safer and more affordable to live and to work without a car.

California law would prohibit local governments from imposing or enforcing a minimum parking requirement on residential, commercial or other developments if the project is within a half-mile walk of public transportation.

As in most of the United States, housing shortages in Oregon and California have led to rising house prices, one of the contributors to the homelessness crisis.

Parking lots are not going away anytime soon. But planners and developers have long realized that every parking spot drives up construction costs, and parking for homes and businesses is overbuilt almost everywhere.

Estimates vary, but many experts suggest building individual parking spaces starts at $20,000 for those on surface lots and can cost up to $60,000 for underground garages, according to the Parking Reform Network, that tracks nationwide efforts to change parking culture.

The cost of parking is built into the cost of the home or business, or rent. Parking also takes up space that could be used for housing, especially in more walkable or bikeable neighborhoods with good access to public transport.

Removing parking minimums is “easy fruit and very easy to grow,” said Tony Jordan, president of the Portland-based Parking Reform Network. “It’s very difficult to implement other known strategies for housing affordability or for climate action or traffic reduction if you’re mismanaging your parking or needing too much.”

In Oregon, the resolution of minimum parking mandates is part of a broader set of rules issued by the state’s growth management agency this year to slow greenhouse gas emissions and make facing an affordable housing crisis.

Eight of the state’s largest metropolitan areas, including Portland, are to appoint or establish climate friendly neighborhoods – typically downtown areas and corridors with high levels of public transit. Portland has already canceled many minimum parking mandates.

The rules also require jurisdictions to allow dense housing and mixed-use developments, even as they limit car-centric land uses.

Still, many city and county officials outside of Portland remain skeptical, as do business and trade groups. Many cities have asked the Oregon Department of Conservation and Land Development to hold off on formal enactment of parking and land use rules until they have more assurance of funding to help. to plan changes.

The Oregon Home Builders Association, League of Oregon Cities and Association of Oregon Counties as well as the Oregon Home Builders Association, Oregon Realtors and Oregon Restaurant and Lodging Association and the Farm Bureau all filed objections.

The parking mandate discussion can be an entry point for difficult conversations about the effects of car-dominated American life on housing costs and the climate, said Daniel Herriges of Strong Towns, an advocacy organization rights which studies the effects of post-war North American development models. .

Oregon’s longstanding state urban growth laws make it easier to implement statewide planning changes, but most parking policy changes happen at the planning level. citywide, not statewide, Herriges said.

Cities as disparate as Buffalo, San Diego, Hartford and Fayetteville, Ark., have embraced the movement.

Fayetteville, which in 2015 ended minimum parking requirements on all commercial properties, appears to be the first city in the nation to do so.

The move came after planners noticed that minimum parking requirements were making it difficult for investors to redevelop some long-vacant downtown properties, which were on small lots in the city’s pedestrian-only historic district. , next to the University of Arkansas.

The city’s zoning codes stipulate maximum parking limits: for example, developers who want to exceed them must justify their requests or compensate for the additional heat islands by planting more trees.

And yet, there’s huge potential to change parking habits, Herriges said, because it’s the biggest determinant of America’s urban land use patterns.

Removing parking minimums may be the biggest obstacle to creating walkable urban places with more affordable housing options, he said. But it will be a long time before this is the mainstream option.

“Most Americans drive most places, and that will be true 20 years from now, there’s just no way it’s not,” Herriges said. “But we desperately need to make the alternatives more accessible to more people and at a price that more people can afford. Parking is the biggest obstacle in the way.

Erika Bolstad writes for Stateline, an initiative of The Pew Charitable Trusts.

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