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Jan 26, 2016 4:40 PM

Seacoast Matters: Parking vs. affordable housing in Portsmouth: Which should be top priority?

PORTSMOUTH - When you’re driving around Portsmouth looking for a parking spot, you have to wonder why there aren’t more parking spaces available.

It’s little comfort to know it could be another two to three years before the new municipal parking garage is built where Gary’s Beverages is now located.

If you’re working in the city and looking for an affordable place to live, you’re probably wondering when a place like that might come along.

Providing parking spots versus providing affordable housing is a battle that has been going on in Portsmouth for many years. Now a Portsmouth city councilor thinks he has a solution.

Councilor Eric Spear is proposing using the Parrott Avenue parking lot for building affordable micro-apartments. The small studio units would be targeted to young professionals and single people. Monthly rents would be about $800.

“The time is right. People want this to happen,” said Portsmouth City Councilor Eric Spear. He’s eager to get affordable housing built in the downtown area.

Spear says the land could be developed by the city, or provided for free to a developer who would agree to build affordable housing on the property.

The Parrott Avenue parking lot is one of three free city parking lots that remain in the downtown area. Losing the valuable parking space to build apartments would be a problem for many people who come to the city to work and shop.

“I mean, there’s nowhere to park now,” said Bill Prince who lives in York, Maine.

Amy Odiorne, who works at Gary’s Beverages, says she still lives with her dad because she can’t afford to rent an apartment in Portsmouth.

“My opinion is that we need more affordable housing,” she said.

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