Apartment Blockers

Alan Durning is the executive director and founder of Sightline Institute, a think tank on sustainability issues in the Pacific Northwest. This article, originally posted on Sightline’s blog, is #9 in their series, “Parking? Lots!”

Have you ever watched the excavation that precedes a tall building? It seems to take forever. Then, when the digging is finally done, construction rockets upward in no time. For the past few months, I’ve been watching a crew excavate the site of a new condo tower on Seattle’s First Hill. It’s on a route I walk three times a week, so I’ve had a ring-side seat. And here’s the thing that finally dawned on me, after years of not really thinking about these holes in the urban ground: what’s all the excavation for? It’s for parking. Underground parking. In most cities and in most soil conditions, the giant holes are only there to satisfy off-street parking rules, and to do that, you need a deep, deep hole. A hole like this one.

At Eighth Ave. and Seneca St. in Seattle. Photo by Alan Durning

Digging these holes is astronomically expensive. They’re real-life money holes. The crew I’ve been watching has been laboring away for weeks, deploying enormous machinery and keeping a fleet of dump trucks in constant motion. They’ve undoubtedly spent millions of dollars removing rock and dirt. One Portland developer told me that each successive layer of excavation—each floor down in the garage—costs two to three times as much as the previous one.

Such costs are one reason housing is so expensive nowadays. A one-bedroom apartment in the city of Seattle rents for upwards of $1,300 on average. In Portland, rents are approaching $1,000 and, in Vancouver, BC, $1,400.

City requirements for off-street parking spaces jack up rents. They jack it up a lot at the bottom of the housing ladder. Proportionally speaking, the bigger the quota and the smaller the apartment, the larger the rent hike. For one-bedroom apartments with two parking places, as is required in places including Bothell and Federal Way, Washington, as much as one-third of the rent may actually pay for parking. A flotilla of studies supports that claim, and I’ll summarize them in this article, but first, a case study of residential real estate development may illuminate how critical parking is to the affordability of housing.

A Housing Dream (in which you are a developer)

Imagine you’re starting business as a developer of housing.

You take a loan from a bank and buy a city lot zoned multifamily. You sit down with your architect and start laying it out for apartments. The more apartments, the more housing you can provide, and the more money you can make. So the architect fills the lot with housing, right out to the city-required “set-back” boundaries near the edges of your property. She builds it as tall as the legal height limit for that zone too. You can erect 50 one-bedroom apartments, she announces, each of about 550 square feet. You do some figuring and realize you can earn a 7 percent return on investment while charging $800 a month in rent. That’s not a screamingly profitable venture, but it’ll do. And you’re sure that price will be popular with tenants, which will keep the building full. A schematic diagram of the development looks like this:

No parking diagram, courtesy of the City of Portland Bureau of Planning and Sustainability

But there’s a problem, the architect points out. She reminds you that your city requires you to provide off-street parking on the property for each of the apartments you build. Cities such as Kent and Yakima, Washington, and Nampa and Meridian, Idaho, require two spaces per unit, but fortunately yours only requires one. You say, “That’s OK. We’ll put it underground.” The architect makes you a new drawing. It looks like this:

Underground parking diagram, courtesy of the City of Portland Bureau of Planning and Sustainability

Underground parking diagram, courtesy of the City of Portland Bureau of Planning and Sustainability.

She tells you that the access ramps to the underground garage will subtract six apartments, and your general contractor estimates that excavating will cost $55,000 per parking space—almost as much as the $60,000 you’ve budgeted to build each apartment. To make a 7 percent return on investment, you’ll have to raise the rent up to $1,300 a month on the remaining units. Will the market support that price? You’re not sure. They’re one-bedroom apartments, after all. Worse, the floor space of your garage won’t even fit one slot per apartment. You’ll have 44 apartments and parking for 33 cars or 0.75 spaces per unit. You’ll either have to apply to the city for a waiver from the usual one-space-per-unit parking code—a risky and time-consuming process—or give up more apartments on the ground floor to add more parking. That’ll push rent even higher.

You contemplate whether to dig a second subterranean level in the garage, but the deeper you go, the contractor explains, the more expensive it gets. In fact, the cost grows geometrically. Unfortunately, your architect says, you can’t just dig enough space for 11 more cars. You have to do an entire additional level, at a cost that might approach $100,000 a slot. Then you’ll have 66 spaces, the total construction cost of which would be substantially greater than the cost of building the apartments. Obviously, going deeper won’t work.

“What if we shrink the building and do a surface lot in the back?” you ask the architect. She lays it out for you, like this:

Surface parking diagram, courtesy of the City of Portland Bureau of Planning and Sustainability

You’re now considering a building with 30 apartments, plus 19 spaces behind. That’s only 0.6 parking spaces apiece, so you’ll still be in trouble with the city. To get one space per apartment, you’ll need to drop down to 25 apartments or fewer and raise the rent again. Your architect says it’s hard to fit the stairs and halls into the building with so few units. (You might have to lower your aesthetic standards and do a parking-courtyard building.) Even if you can get a city waiver to put in just 19 spaces, you calculate, you’ll still have to charge rent of $1,200 a month. Will you be able to keep the apartments full at $1,200 a month? You’re not sure.

You try other configurations, such as devoting part of the first floor to parking. This option gives you nine indoor spaces (nowhere near enough to meet your parking quota) and sacrifices five apartments. Out of curiosity, you calculate that if you could charge $250 a month for each of the parking spots, you’d make up for the five lost apartments. That would let you leave rent at $800 for the apartments, same as in the no-parking scenario. But you doubt you can rent the slots for $250 a month, because parking is abundant in the neighborhood.

Tuck-under parking diagram, courtesy of the City of Portland Bureau of Planning and Sustainability

The whole situation is aggravating, because the area surrounding your building has vast, untapped reservoirs of parking: surface lots at grocery stores and movie theaters, underground spaces at shopping complexes and office buildings, and idle spots at nearby apartments. Each category of parking has its own rhythm of filling and emptying: the theater lots, for example, fill during the evenings, especially on Friday and Saturday nights, but remain empty during daylight and after the late show. Overnight, when your tenants’ cars will most likely be at home, the office buildings’ garages are usually empty. And, of course, there are hundreds of curb spaces within six blocks of your building, though neighbors’ vehement territoriality about “their” spaces would make it impolitic to mention those in an appeal to the city for a parking waiver. Odds are that your tenants could secure whatever parking they wanted for much less than $250 a month per spot. You could even rent a group of overnight spaces at a nearby garage and sublet them to tenants, but such innovative solutions are not a legal substitute for on-site parking in your city.

You’re stuck with no good options: a long and risky waiver application, underground parking with extremely high rents, or a half-sized building with high rent and slots out back. You now understand why architects, in moments of dark humor, change their discipline’s mantra of “form follows function” to “form follows parking.” And you’re starting to understand how parking requirements are such an enormous barrier to affordable housing.

Five Rent Raisers (in which I hear the ghost of Econ past)

This case study, based on scenario analysis by the Portland Bureau of Planning and Sustainability that uses state-of-the-art real-estate planning tools, illustrates the way parking requirements raise the price of housing. It also hints at how they elevate the rent for everyone, even people who do not own cars or use parking spaces. But let’s be more precise. How do parking requirements raise rents? They do it in five ways, some of which affect all of the housing market and some of which only affect parts of it.

1. More Costly Housing. Parking quotas drive up construction costs. (“But supply and demand, not cost, set prices,” I hear my Econ 101 professor Hirschel Kasper pointing out. “Raising costs doesn’t raise prices.” “Yes,” I respond in my head, “but costs limit what goes to market, as you often said.” He nods approval.) High parking costs for construction effectively exclude new, less-expensive apartments from the market. There’s no way you can legally build your no-parking $800-a-month apartments, nor can anyone else, anywhere in town. The whole apartment market will be missing its bottom end. (It’s already missing most of its granny flats and rooming houses, as I argue in my new book Unlocking Home.)

Todd Litman of the Victoria Transport Policy Institute has modeled a typical affordable housing development and concluded that including one parking space per dwelling raises the cost of each rental unit by 12.5 percent; adding a second parking space doubles that to 25 percent.

2. Less Housing. Parking quotas constrain the supply of dwelling units, particularly of modest, economical ones, which causes their price to rise. (Dr. Kasper affirms: “Supply and demand, not cost . . .”) You may end up building only 25 apartments, rather than 50. The same goes for every other builder in the city. Fewer new apartments mean more competition for all apartments. Rents go up.

3. Building Conversions Blocked. Parking quotas often make it prohibitively expensive to adapt buildings for other uses. Developers cannot convert vacant warehouses into lofts, or aging office blocks into condos, unless they somehow shoehorn floors of parking into the historic structures. (Again, Dr. Kasper intones, “when supply is constrained, prices rise.”) This effect may keep fewer apartments off the market than does effect 2 (above), but in older cities, it can still keep thousands of apartments from getting built.

4. Dispersed Housing. By suppressing the number of apartments on each city lot (see 2 and 3), quotas force housing demand to spread outward across the landscape. In a word: sprawl, which raises travel distances and commuting expenses. Instead of 50 apartments on your in-city lot and many others like it, there may be only 25. Apartment hunters will have to go farther afield, increasing their cost of living, if not their rent.

5. Billing Non-parkers. Parking quotas shift the cost of storing vehicles from those vehicles’ owners into the rent of non-owners. By flooding the market for parking, quotas make it impossible to recoup the full cost of parking by charging its users. (Dr. Kasper agrees: “Supply increases, prices drop.”) You can’t charge $250 a slot, because the neighborhood is awash in mandatory parking stalls. Fortunately for you, the same parking quotas that have flooded the parking market are starving the apartment market, making it possible to charge higher rents. This effect does not raise the rent on average beyond what effects 1, 2, and 3 do, but it does shift the cost of storing vehicles from car owners to non-owners. Even tenants who do not use parking pay for it.

A forthcoming Sightline analysis will likely reach similar conclusions. If preliminary results hold up, it will show that, at actual apartment and condominium projects in Seattle, the cost of parking is as much as 35 percent of monthly rent. The cost of parking, furthermore, exceeds its market price almost everywhere in King County, so even tenants who do not own cars end up paying for parking through their rent.

These five effects interact and reinforce one another. They knock the bottom off of the apartment market, pushing working-class people to double up or commute longer distances. They raise the rent for everyone, driving up the cost of living while lowering the price of parking. And they shift parking costs to those who don’t use it.

Two Proofs (for extra credit)

Together, these five mechanisms raise housing prices. How much? It’s hard to say exactly. No two dwellings are exactly the same, so rigorously distinguishing the effects of parking requirements—as opposed to the many other variables like “look” and “neighborhood”—on housing prices is what Dr. Kasper would have termed an extra credit problem. Fortunately, studies from Oakland and Los Angeles have earned at least part of the credit.

In 1961, Oakland introduced a quota of one space per new apartment. Immediately, as housing economist Brian Bertha has documented (see page 143), the construction cost per apartment jumped by 18 percent and typical apartment buildings shrank: the number of units per new building fell by 30 percent. Developers built fewer, larger apartments, and the rent rose.

A newer proof comes from urban planning professor Michael Manville of Cornell University. He described in the Journal of the American Planning Association what happened in downtown Los Angeles after 1999 when the city enacted an adaptive reuse ordinance (ARO). Manville writes, “The ARO exempted qualifying buildings from minimum parking requirements. Although developers could not remove any existing parking, they were under no obligation to add any. New ground-up residential construction in the downtown, however, was still subject to the city’s parking requirements.” Quickly, the deregulation of parking yielded more than 6,000 new apartments and condominiums, some of them in previously dilapidated historic office buildings that dated from the Art Deco era. Meanwhile, new developments were erecting thousands of other dwellings in the same neighborhoods. The side-by-side existence of ARO buildings with new buildings gave Manville a natural experiment to study. The findings, as Manville summarized them:

When parking requirements are removed, developers provide more housing and less parking, and also . . . developers provide different types of housing: housing in older buildings, in previously disinvested areas, and housing marketed toward non-drivers. This latter category of housing tends to sell for less than housing with parking spaces.

Manville’s research confirms in detail everything you’d expect from your own time as an imaginary housing developer. Minimum parking requirements do not jack the rent up much in the kinds of pricey buildings where the developer would have installed an abundance of parking anyway. The richest renters and condo owners expect parking spots of their own, on-site, and plenty of them. What minimum parking requirements do is force more-modest buildings to squeeze out living space in favor of parking space.

Across all of the ARO rental projects, the average amount of parking installed was 1.2 spaces per unit. That’s more than the waived quota of one space. Does that mean that the parking quotas didn’t matter? No. High-end buildings pulled up the average. (Remember, this is in high-rent, downtown, auto-centric Los Angeles, often in restored historic buildings.) Meanwhile, many ARO buildings provided fewer than one space per unit, and some provided none. It all depended on the developer and what the building’s structure would accommodate cost-effectively.

A Market to Park It (in which developers act like you)

What’s more, half of the parking spaces developers provided to tenants were at neighboring or nearby properties. In fact, at 16 of the 57 ARO buildings, all the parking was off-site. These developers did what you wanted to do for your 50-unit building: they secured tenant parking not by pouring concrete but by sipping coffee with the owners of nearby garages.

Some developers did not assign individual spots. They used a pooled parking system. Just as airlines overbook flights, statistically confident that a few passengers won’t show up, pooled parking takes advantage of probabilities: at any given time, some cars will be away.

Some developers put in tandem spaces, where two cars nose into the same slot, one behind the other. Others looked into parking lifts, contraptions that double the capacity of each place by stacking cars.

Lifts and tandem parking at The Strand condominiums in Portland. Photo by Ari Ronai-Durning

Developers in 20 of the buildings unbundled parking charges from rent: they leased them separately. Residents could take an apartment without parking. Or they could take two spaces. Or three. In some buildings, they could rent one space on-site and another off-site. They could adjust month by month, depending on their needs. In short, they could participate in an actual, functioning market for car storage.

Compared with the new non-ARO buildings in the same area, Manville found that ARO buildings had about 0.3 fewer spaces per dwelling total, and half of it was off-site—illegal for the new-built structures. In the ARO rental units, each additional parking space (again, many of them off-site) raised the rent by about 6 percent or $85 a month. No one can build parking spaces in downtown Los Angeles for as little as $85 a month, but the availability of abundant off-site parking—the legacy of decades of parking quotas—pushed parking’s price below its cost. (Dr. Kasper again.)

Reading the Meter (in which I guess)

The research hints at the rent increases caused by some of the “rent raisers” above: 6 percent higher rent per parking space in Los Angeles, 12.5 percent in Litman’s model, up to 35 percent in the forthcoming Sightline analysis.

But none of them captures the most powerful rent raisers: numbers 2 and 3, in which parking minimums constrain apartment supply and thereby push up rents across the entire city. Detecting and measuring that effect would be exceedingly difficult, because it is incremental and market-wide. Still, anything that so constrains the number of apartments—30 percent in Oakland, for example, or enough that a narrow parking exemption for adaptive reuse of buildings in downtown Los Angeles could induce the rapid-fire construction of 6,000 new units—surely has enormous impacts on rent. If parking minimums in Northwest cities have reduced the number of in-town apartments by 30 percent, the resulting average rent hike must be giant. A quarter? A third? More? It’s impact on sprawl must be similarly big.

Los Angeles’s ARO experience illustrates another important lesson: deregulating parking eliminates neither on-site parking nor its construction. It simply allows developers and residents to come up with innovative solutions to the age-old question of where to park. It lets millions of individual actors making daily decisions about alternatives and costs determine how much parking gets built, rather than expecting city councils and a few officials in planning departments to decide how much parking to build based on nonexistent theory or divine revelation. Parking deregulation lets residents decide how much they’re willing to pay to park, how far they’re willing to walk to park, and ultimately how much it’s worth to them to own a car that needs parking.

Eighth and Seneca, a few days later. Photo by Alan Durning

As the cost of parking disentangles itself from the price of housing, ending parking quotas will bring rents down, especially for those with few or no cars and for people looking for modest dwellings. Developers, for their part, will be free to build the least-expensive parking spaces but stop before the cost skyrockets, as when they’d need to start excavating craterous, multi-million-dollar holes in the ground.

Thanks to the Portland Bureau of Planning and Sustainability for permission to publish its diagrams and to Hirschel Kasper for teaching me economics.

  • Alan

    I don’t see parking going away completely for multi unit structures but I don’t know why more cities don’t institute more flexible policies for providing it. Why not let developers choose between: supplying parking, paying an equivalent contribution to support local transit, pooling resources with other developers to build centralized pubicly accessible parking etc. Some will still chose to provide it on site but in some cases it would be more efficient to provide transportation options in other ways. I also find it frustrating that as person without a car you can’t rent or buy many new places without having to pay for a parking spot you might not need!

  • On the flip side, those holes are pretty cool

  • anon_coward

    i’m all for transit but a lot of people want a car for weekend travel even if they commute via transit and that’s not going away. building an apartment building without parking for the tenants will screw up the street parking

  • And who is paying for those street spaces? On many residential streets there are no meters.

  • My condo building, where I rent a one-bedroom apartment, has 2 parking spaces and one “loading” space. I never bothered to ask who gets the 2 spaces, since it’s a 40-unit building. There’s even a side yard for dogs and grilling outside. The building next door, same lot size, has a building with 6 units. There are at least 20 parking spaces behind it. Not sure why (mandatory or not), but I do know the rents in my building are lower than the ones around me – based on searching for comparable apartments. I have to believe that part of that is because my building is maximizing the land potential by not giving up any space to parking. And the neighborhood is better for it. There’s a bus stop 1/2 block away, a train station 4 blocks away, and a bike share station coming in within a few weeks. Zipcars sit parked at the school two blocks away. There is a Target and grocery store 6 blocks away. You don’t need a car in this neighborhood.

  • anon_coward

    my taxes?

  • anon_coward

    NYC you have to pay to lease a parking spot. its not like the rents of everyone in the building pay for it

  • sawa

    your taxes must be pretty high to cover the cost of occupying land in whatever city you are living in (in NYC I would say that land is probably worth several hundred dollars a month, maybe slightly less in seattle or portland, but are you paying extra secret taxes we dont know about?). i have a sneaking suspicion your “taxes” don’t pay for the parking spot, in which case WE are subsidizing your parking. i think you should pay market rate on the street for that spot. its only fair, if you want a car to travel on the weekends (your right/privilege).

  • anon_coward

    its also fair to raise the cost of the subway to $5 a trip or $250 a month to cover the costs of operating the system without property taxes subsidizing it

    last i read 45% of people in NYC own a car. and almost everyone i know who owns a car takes the subway to work and doesn’t drive into manhattan

  • sawa

    the subway is a public good. parking for your car is not.
    roads don’t make money either. you should pay the market rate to ride on them. its probably a few dollars or so a mile. oh and i would like you to pay a carbon fee for your pollution and a war fee for your subsidized gas.

  • Anonymous

    I can rent a car for my weekends out of town. In most cities, rental rates drop on weekends, because business demand is high only on weekdays.

    Of course, with fewer cars polluting the city streets with noise and danger, there’d be less reason to want to leave town.

    So please let me make my own decision about buying, renting, and parking a car. Not force me to give up my freedom to you or the Commissar of Traffic and Parking down at City Hall.

  • Anonymous

    And my taxes. What do I get for subsidizing your free curbside parking?

    Do you really get a big charge out of dumping your costs on others? The thrill of being a parasite!

  • Anonymous

    In YOUR NYC that may be true, or not.

    In my NYC building, some years back the landlord announced that due to cost increases, Parking rates would go up. After a couple of meetings, the Tenants Association (!) voted to spread the increased costs across the apartment rentals and leave the parking rates the same. Which is what the landlord did.

    I’m still bitter. Those charges will be in my rent for the rest of my life here.

  • Mark Walker

    The average subsidy per subway ride is $1.11, so an unsubsidized full fare would be $3.61, not $5. Driving and parking are far more heavily subsidized no matter what yardstick you use.

  • anon_coward

    every coop building i have seen in queens the parking costs money. a lot of the buildings are now leasing their underground garages to a parking company so that people off the street can park there as well. I have never heard of a building where the maintenance includes costs to cover the garage.

  • anon_coward

    how much is the NYC road budget? MTA wants $100 billion over the next 20 years. at least now they want to upgrade signals instead of wasting money on new tunnels in manhattan

  • Ben Ross

    View from my bedroom window as I write:

  • Robert Wright

    I don’t have much of a problem with the idea of raising the subway fare to something close to the unsubsidized rate – as long as the tax take from drivers also increases enough to cover the costs they impose: http://invisiblevisibleman.blogspot.com/2013/02/subway-fares-gas-tax-and-why-its-too.html Given that drivers in New York state appear to meet only around 43 per cent of the cost of providing the road system – let alone external costs like pollution and congestion – drivers would probably in for a bigger price shock than public transit users in this brave, no-subsidy world.

  • Andrew

    My taxes pay for those street spaces just as much as yours do, but I don’t have a car so I don’t use them.

    But that isn’t enough for you. You’re telling me that, not only do I have to contribute toward your parking space on the street, I also have to pay for an off-street parking space that I have no use for – all because you’re afraid that maybe I’ll buy a car some day, and I might then have the audacity to park it on the street (that my taxes pay for) and compete with you for parking.

    It’s the classic free rider problem.

    I have another suggestion, one that doesn’t force people to pay for things they have no use for and one that doesn’t financially incentivize driving. How about we set up a system where anybody who wants parking pays for parking, and anybody who doesn’t want parking doesn’t pay for parking? Voila! No more free rider problem.

  • Car sharing is perfect for this, so no, you don’t have any excuse to own a car.

  • Joe R.

    The solution for people who live in large cities but want to use cars for weekend travel is to have huge parking garages at city limits where all city residents store their cars. When you want to use your car, you walk, bike, or take public transit to the garage, and then drive to your destination of choice. There’s no reason we need housing to be more expensive so some people can park, or to use valuable real estate for curbside parking.

  • Joe R.

    And I wonder how much of that $3.61 per ride is devoted to fare collection expenses. I wouldn’t be surprised if half of it were. If so, you could easily make a good case for not charging a fare at all.

  • Joe R.

    I’m thinking they could double as shelters of some sort. If nothing else, once fewer and fewer people own cars, the parking could be repurposed into either retail or residential space.

  • Nick Casey

    I think the solution there is car sharing and car rentals. Street parking is valuable. If you need a car to bring your groceries home then use Car2Go. If you want to go visit relatives a few hours away then rent a car. If my wife didn’t work at a school with poor transit options then we would get rid of our car and go this route.

  • anon_coward

    zipcar and car sharing is a rip off
    and yes, my wife used to drive to work for years because she worked in places with no transit. only the last few months has my car been mostly parked all day

    even then its still cheaper or about the same to buy a car than pay for car sharing

  • anon_coward

    ok
    like people are going to spend an hour with their kids and crap to carry going to a garage on the nassau county border just to go to the beach or somewhere else

  • anon_coward

    if you want to fix congestion on the east side which is insane, run subways in queens where there are none. people drive because huge parts of queens have no subway service or the street cleaning rules mean they have to move their cars every day

    and toll the bridges since congestion pricing will never happen

  • guest

    You sure that wasn’t for the apartment/retail building with the Metropolitan Food Market who’s funding fell through and laid fallow for several years? It looks realllllly similar

  • Joe R.

    There are beaches in the city which are easily accessible by public transit. Here’s how I see it. Motor vehicles operating and parking in the city cause a lot of problems for everyone while benefiting only a minority. In any democracy the majority rules. Going to a beach is purely an optional activity. If it really ends up as inconvenient as you say then people will just find something else to do which doesn’t involve driving. Besides, why should the city make it more convenient for people to drive to LI or NJ and spend their recreation dollars there? If places which currently can only be reached by car really value tourism dollars from city residents perhaps they might make an effort to improve public transit access.

    On another note, I personally don’t see the appeal of going to the beach at all. I’d rather be in a nice, air-conditioned environment when it’s hot, not sitting on a hot beach with the sun beating down on me.

  • Robert Wright

    Congestion pricing is effectively the tolling of the bridges. Toll all the bridges and tunnels into lower Manhattan, stick another cordon around 59 St and you have a congestion charging zone.

  • With all due respect, @anon_coward_12:disqus, did you read the article? It shows how an $800 apartment becomes a $1200-$1300 apartment when the expense of building parking is included. No one pays $500 a month for parking — much of that is just rolled into the rents. The developer is paying him/herself back for the cost of construction with unit prices, and it just so happens a big part of that construction involves parking. Plus: “Parking quotas shift the cost of storing vehicles from those vehicles’
    owners into the rent of non-owners. By flooding the market for parking,
    quotas make it impossible to recoup the full cost of parking by charging
    its users.”

  • Oh my goodness, I would hope that’s not the solution. Pay to own a car you hardly use and destroy someone else’s community by turning it into a wasteland of car storage? And then it’s so inconvenient it defeats all the convenience a car is supposed to offer? Sounds pretty bad. If you’re really talking about weekend travel, car-sharing is a far better option. Rentals too, as long as you don’t have to schlep out to the airport for that, but the neighborhood ones around here, at least, are closed most of Saturday and all of Sunday, which makes day trips on the weekend expensive, since you have to keep the car for at least two days. I’m a member of three car-sharing services that all have different pros and cons that satisfy my needs — and I rent out the two spots behind my house.

  • anon_coward

    yes i read it and every building i’ve seen in NYC, the parking is extra and not included in the rent or coop maintenance.

    they built a new condo close to where i live a few years ago and the underground parking is run by a separate company and is separate from your condo fees. another building i looked at, the parking was $80,000 to buy a spot on top of the condo price if you wanted parking

  • Anonymous

    I think you’re missing the point. Parking may cost money, but you’re not paying the FULL cost of constructing the parking.

  • Joe R.

    Granted, my idea is a bit over the top, and car sharing is probably a better idea overall. Nevertheless, something similar to what described would be necessary if we ever finally decided to just prohibit personal cars in cities altogether. Certainly we would need much better public transit before that idea would be feasible, but I hope in my lifetime we’ll see large swaths of dense urban areas off limits to private cars. I also hope it becomes feasible in my lifetime to make a lot more trips by public transit which currently are convenient only via car.

  • Joe R.

    Exactly. I have a friend who is paying $50 a month to park in his building’s outdoor parking lot. I’m sure that doesn’t even come close to the income that land could generate if you built another 23-story high rise where the parking lot currently is. Any way you look at it, non-car owners are paying more to subsidize car parking.

  • anon_coward

    i’m sure queens with its 50-60% car ownership rate, people would move into a building with no parking

  • Joe R.

    Perhaps the car ownership rate is only so high because we make it easy to own a car with free on-street and heavily subsidized off-street parking. I wouldn’t look at car ownership rates here but rather how often people use their cars. Someone who only uses their car once or twice a week would probably just get rid of it if parking became more expensive. The vast majority of people in Queens take public transit to work. They don’t even touch their car except on their days off. I think your rate of heavy, daily car use in Queens is probably closer to 25%. The other 75% either don’t own cars at all, or don’t use them enough to justify ownership if the cost side of the equation increased.

    The main point here that me and others are trying to impress upon you is why should the 40% to 50% in Queens (and larger percentages in Brooklyn, the Bronx, and Manhattan) who don’t own cars pay extra housing expenses and taxes to subsidize those who do? It’s not like other people owning private cars provides those who don’t with any benefit. I can see the rationale of everyone paying something for streets because we can all use buses, we all need goods delivered, etc. I can’t however see why we should pay to maintain a wider street just so people can park there for free. Now if the city wants to charge for curbside parking at whatever the true cost is I’m OK with that, but it shouldn’t be free.

  • Anonymous

    Underground apartments with no windows? Looks more like a holding cell…

  • Joe R.

    Yeah, but if you charged something like $200 a month you would get a lot of takers. The upside of being underground is the temperature is usually comfortable no matter how it is above ground.

  • Inspector Spacetime

    Whenever I’ve seen this, the cost of parking space construction were permanently embedded in the apartment rents, not the parking charges. The monthly parking charges capture operating costs of the spaces, and maybe more as an extra revenue stream.

  • Inspector Spacetime

    Everyone gets advantage from being able to load and unload deliveries, furniture, guests, etc., but that advantage is not the same as those who use it for overnight vehicle storage. There’s a delta, and I agree that it’s unclear why we’re paying for it. I’d rather pay more for wider sidewalks.

  • Inspector Spacetime

    We spent about 4-5K a year on weekend car rentals. It was cheaper and less hassle than owning the vehicle outright, and we were able to take advantage of access to different kinds of vehicles depending on what we needed.

  • Mindyurbiz

    In a coop, everyone subsidizes everyone else. Just ask those who own terraces and those who don’t–when the terraces need repair the entire building pays for it. The fact is, the cost for BUILDING the parking spot was built into EVERYONE’s common charges when the building either first went up and/or was converted to a coop/condo. However, the cost for USING the parking spot was/is not–most coops charge an EXTRA monthly fee for that and only to those who use the spot. So, you’re NOT subsidizing non-Parker’s especially because in many cases the operating costs of the garage are covered by these additional charges that only those who use it pay for– even when the fee is below market value. The fact is, everyone in a coop benefits when parking is offered as an amenity. It’s why I opted to buy my coop as opposed to another.

  • Mindyubiz

    Exactly! And, unless it’s a new building, those construction costs have long ago been recouped so the idea that those who don’t use the parking spots are somehow subsidizing those who do is misleading … especially if the parker’s are paying an additional fee that captures the operating costs. As I say below, everyone in say a coop subsidizes everyone in one way or another anyway. Building the terraces, and maintaining them even, that only some people have in some buildings, costs way more to construct than an individual paid for when they purchased the unit. Thus, such construction costs and maintenance was/is most likely spread out to everyone in the building.

  • StockStalker1

    It’s never cheaper to rent a car. You think the rental company is in business to make 0 profit on the cars *they* own?

  • Inspector Spacetime

    Maybe it’s because I wrote this a year ago but I don’t understand what you think I was saying. Without re-reading the chain, I think I was saying it was cheaper for us to rent a car when really needed than to maintain our own private car year-round waiting for us to have a need.

    The rental companies get to push their asset utilization rate up to make a profit, whereas our utilization rate would be around 5-10% tops. And trying to drive up our utilization of the car doesn’t save us money or bring in additional income. (Assuming we didn’t start up a side job involving moving small items to and fro.)

  • StockStalker1

    Ah, I understand your position then. I thought you were implying it’s better to rent a car even if you would be using it on a daily basis.

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