There’s a surplus of parking spots in multifamily-housing projects across the Lower Mainland, according to research by Metro Vancouver. The regional government based this on two surveys: one of parking stalls at 80 apartment sites and the other from a questionnaire sent to 1,500 apartment households.
“Residential parking supply in strata apartments generally exceed parking demand in the range of 18-35 percent across the region,” Metro Vancouver states in a report that goes to regional planning and agriculture committees on Friday (September 7) and to the housing committee on September 20.
There may also be an oversupply of visitor spots, the report adds: “Observed parking demand rates were below 0.1 stall per apartment unit, compared to the typical municipal requirement of 0.2 visitor stall per apartment unit.”
All that extra parking could be having an impact on housing affordability. That’s because, according to this report, “on-site structured parking” costs “$20,000 to $45,000 per stall, plus maintenance costs”.
“Ensuring the parking requirements match actual demand can help reduce unnecessary housing development costs,” the report claims.
There are several reasons behind the parking oversupply. Transit ridership has been increasing in recent years. In addition, there has been “a steady decline in the rate that additional cars and light trucks have been added to the region” since 2008.
In addition, 16 percent of Vancouver households and 15 percent of UBC Point Grey campus households have signed up to share a vehicle, according to Metro Vancouver’s research.
“Carshare programs have exploded in popularity in recent years such that the region has one of the most competitive markets in all of North America,” the report points out. “Whether or not these patterns will continue on to become long-term trends, the evidence does point minimally to the need to revisit basic assumptions about the supply and demand for apartment parking in the region.”
It’s worth noting that local municipalities appear to be behind other cities in dealing with this issue. The report points out that most municipalities require a minimum of one stall per apartment unit. In Calgary, Toronto, Montreal, Seattle, Bellevue, Portland, and Denver, the minimum is less than one stall per unit in their urban core. “Seattle and Portland have 0 minimums in specific geographic areas,” it states.
The City of Vancouver and the UBC Point Grey campus are the only two jurisdictions in Metro Vancouver with maximum parking requirements. Among the other cities listed, all but Seattle and Denver have maximums.
The report also reveals that parking demand near “Frequent Transit Network bus stops” is similar to that around SkyTrain and SeaBus stations, where parking supply is lower. And the demand for parking is far lower among apartment renters than owners.
For years, housing experts have been linking the price of condos to the number of on-site parking spots. But some activists worry that if municipalities simply slash the number of required stalls, it may not have any effect on affordability if developers continue charging what the market will bear.
Earlier this year, former COPE park-board candidate Brent Granby advocated converting savings from reduced parking requirements into some form of “inclusionary zoning”. Under this approach, council would rezone land on the condition that a developer make some of the housing affordable to people with low to medium incomes. In the 2011 election, Granby’s party proposed that all new housing developments above six stories would include at least 20-percent inclusionary zoning.
According to a paper written by Robert W. Burchell and Catherine C. Galley of the Center for Urban Policy Research at Rutgers University, an inclusionary-zoning program in Maryland’s Montgomery County resulted in 12.5 to 15 percent “moderately priced dwelling units” being included in subdivisions. The Metro Vancouver report makes no mention of inclusionary zoning. However, it raises the possibility of letting home buyers opt out of purchasing a parking stall. According to the document, this would “provide the opportunity for consumers without cars to realize some modest improvement in affordability”.
Follow Charlie Smith on Twitter at twitter.com/csmithstraight.