Study: Loosening Parking Mandates Leads to More Affordable Housing

A recent study by Michael Manville at UCLA [PDF] has been making the rounds on the Streetsblog Network. Examining areas of Los Angeles where parking regulations had been loosened, Manville found that “when parking requirements are removed, developers provide more housing and less parking, and also that developers provide different types of housing: housing in older buildings, in previously disinvested areas, and housing marketed toward non-drivers.”

Mandating space to store cars means there will be less space to house people. Photo: ##http://thecivicartcleveland.blogspot.com/2012/02/townhouse-example-to-learn-from.html##The Civic Art Cleveland##

Shane Phillips at Network blog Better Institutions offered this take on the new research:

Minimum parking requirements result in more space being dedicated to parking than is really needed; in a world of height limits, floor-area ratios, and endless other development regulations this necessarily leaves less space for actual housing. What really struck me, though, was the straightforward assertion that housing marketed toward non-drivers sells for less than housing with parking spaces. It’s powerful, but it’s also obvious: parking costs money to build, so of course buildings with less parking are cheaper. But to have research-driven data behind it adds force to the conclusion.

Right now, parking is usually required in most localities at a ratio of at least one parking stall per housing unit (often more), and in newer buildings it’s mostly provided underground. Even though it’s ultimately just a big slab of concrete, underground parking spaces cost between $30,000 and $50,000Each. Sometimes more. Diggin’ ain’t cheap.

Developers aren’t stupid, and they aren’t interested in building parking spaces as charity, so they’re going to recoup those costs one way or another. They could try to charge residents for the parking, a difficult prospect in some locales where curbside parking is abundant and cheap (or free). To break even, they’d have to rent out every space for every month for thirty years, for between $85 and $140 per month. Or they could just wrap the cost into everyone’s rent and give everyone a free parking space. As you add more parking spaces, obviously the cost goes up.

Elsewhere on the Network today: Walkable Dallas Fort Worth writes about the long-term savings that cities will reap from embracing bike infrastructure. Carfree Baltimore looks at the problems with passive safety measures — airbags, wide streets, bulky cars — and how they can be obstacles to reducing traffic fatalities. And Hard Drive reports that a proposal to allow gas tax revenues to be spent on bike projects is progressing in Oregon.

  • Juan Matute

    Michael Manville is now Assistant Professor of City & Regional Planning at Cornell University, but UCLA will always claim him as one of our own.

  • Anonymous

    Unfortunately, depending on one’s perspective, this could be used as an argument NOT to loosen parking requirements – if you OPPOSE more housing – affordable or otherwise, you’d want the stiffest parking requirements possible. In addition, more off street parking means less ‘parking congestion’ on the block….as is illustrated in Santa Monica (Planetizen: Santa Monica Battles Itself, and Consultants, Over Parking) and Palo Alto, CA.)

  • Perhaps, but people who oppose new housing are rarely that straightforward. They don’t say “we don’t want new residents, especially lower income residents, so we’re going to do these things to prevent new housing.” They say “we don’t want to change the character of our neighborhood, burden existing residents,” etc., even though the actual result and underlying motivation is often the former, not the latter.

  • Anonymous

    Well stated, Shane – you must have fought those battles 🙂

  • PC

    I’m just happy to see an article in Streetsblog in which it is acknowledged that affordable (i.e, relatively low-priced) housing might actually be a good thing. Lately it’s been more like “Hooray, places to live near mass transit are still expensive!”

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