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Parking requirements are costly
60-70% of new homes in Seattle and Buffalo could not have been built prior to parking reforms
Parking reform legalized most of the new homes in Buffalo and Seattle, Catie Gould, April 2023.
A 2012 Metro Vancouver study estimated that the average construction cost of an onsite parking stall was $20,000 to $45,000 (about 10% of the total construction cost of an apartment building). Underground parking is particularly expensive.
Seattle reduced or eliminated parking mandates near frequent transit stops in 2012, and Buffalo eliminated parking mandates entirely in 2017.
Both of these cities’ policy changes provided a natural experiment for measuring the effects of parking policy. Researchers in Buffalo collected information on 36 major developments that went through permitting in the two years after its so-called Green Code was adopted. In Seattle, a different team of researchers collected data on 868 new multifamily buildings permitted from 2012 to 2017, accounting for over 60,000 new homes.
Sightline asked both research teams to look through their numbers to see how many homes were in buildings that would have been illegal before the reforms. Both datasets yielded a strikingly similar answer: more than half of new homes.
… What is clear to [Michael] Hubner is that the market chose to use the flexibility [Seattle] began offering. Not just on the margins, but by a lot. During the first five years after Seattle’s reform, a total of 35,388 new homes in Seattle ended up benefiting from the freedom to not build excess parking. Today, those homes account for 9.4 percent of the city’s entire housing stock.
Gould notes that new buildings typically did include some on-site parking, just less than was previously mandated.
In both cities, the majority of new buildings still included off-street parking voluntarily. Most people own cars, after all. In Seattle, 70 percent of all new buildings continued to provide off-street parking for residents. Buffalo’s ratio was even higher, at 83 percent of major building projects.
Matthew Yglesias, The case for parking reform, June 2021. He observes that parking increases rents in a high-rise building by about 17%. A specific example: “When Minneapolis reduced its parking minimums, typical rents for a new studio apartment fell from $1,200 a month to about $1,000 a month.”
Donald Shoup, The High Cost of Free Parking (2005).
C. J. Grabbe and Gregory Pierce, Hidden Costs and Deadweight Losses: Bundled Parking and Residential Rents in the Metropolitan United States, August 2016. “We find that the cost of garage parking to renter households is approximately $1,700 per year, or an additional 17% of a housing unit’s rent.”