American Developers Are Building Less Parking Per Bedroom

Unlike previous declines in residential parking ratios, the current one is happening during a period of low gas prices and decent economic conditions.
Unlike previous declines in residential parking ratios, the current one is happening during a period of low gas prices and decent economic conditions.

For decades the number of parking spaces built for each new residence in America has marched steadily upward. But now we may have reached a turning point.

A new report by the real estate analysis firm Redfin, which operates Walk Score, suggests a change is underway. Property data for millions of U.S. homes shows the number of parking spaces per bedroom in new construction has declined for the last four years.

Parking construction per bedroom has dipped before, says Redfin data scientist Eric Scharnhorst, during recessions or periods of high energy prices. But this time, the decline coincides with cheap gas and rising employment.

Scharnhorst thinks public policy may be a factor, as more cities reduce parking mandates, making it easier to build apartments with little or no parking.

Redfin looked at apartments, condos, and single-family homes. In the analysis, a house with a two-car garage, for example, was counted as having two parking spaces. And an apartment with a single parking stall was counted as having one parking space.

It will take more time and data to determine if this is a real long-term shift. But the recent trend is an encouraging sign that the nation can make progress when it comes to excessive parking construction and the traffic and affordability problems it causes.

Before you start feeling too good about the state of affairs, however, remember that America still builds more homes with three-car garages than one-bedroom apartments. So there’s plenty of room for improvement.

  • Larry Littlefield

    This gets back to an argument on Streetsblog years ago. NYC had parking mandates that were easily evaded on 4th Avenue in Brooklyn. Most livable streets activists blamed the mandates for ugly buildings with lots of parking.

    But I pointed out that historically developers wanted to build parking, because it was believed that is what buyers and tenants wanted. And noted another neighborhood where cheap housing was actually the goal, where the parking rules were evaded and buildings were built without parking.

    Fast forward to today, and it appears that developers may have changed their minds. And, rules or no rules, the number of parking spaces is going down. No doubt it is developers who are pushing the changes in rules. It had been their rules to begin with.

  • mfs

    couldn’t this measure be affected by a change to build units with more bedrooms but the same # of parking spaces?

  • Kenny Easwaran

    Eyeballing that chart, it looks like the number basically stabilized from 1995 to 2005, and the decrease we have recently is just undoing the increase that happened from 2005 to 2012 (oddly, as the bubble was bursting). I’d like a better understanding of what is going on here.

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