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Advocates to City Council: Parking Mandates Make Housing Less Affordable

Photo: Google Street View
Mandatory parking minimums add construction costs, restrict the supply of housing, and help put rents out of reach. Photo: Google Street View
Mandatory parking minimums raise construction costs, restrict the supply of housing, and help put rents out of reach. Photo: Google Street View

Requiring the construction of parking spaces drives up the cost of housing in New York City, which is why parking policy reform figures prominently in the de Blasio administration's rezoning plans. Now a coalition of advocates is highlighting how much those reforms matter to the campaign to make housing more affordable.

City Hall's plan calls for the elimination of mandatory parking requirements from some types of housing built within walking distance of the subway, including senior housing and mixed-income inclusionary housing. Doing away with these parking requirements has drawn opposition from several community boards, which cast advisory votes. The real political test will come in the City Council, which has veto power over the proposal.

In a letter to Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and the City Planning Commission, Transportation Alternatives, the Straphangers Campaign, the Regional Plan Association, the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, StreetsPAC, and the Pratt Center highlight the link between parking requirements and New York's high housing costs, referencing two recent studies by the NYU Furman Center:

Parking requirements are not helping the cause of affordable housing -- in fact, evidence shows they work against it. In New York City, parking in above-ground garages costs more than $21,000 per space to build. Below-ground parking can run up to $50,000 per spot. Requiring off-street parking in new developments thus pushes up the cost of creating housing, which makes affordable housing a less appealing prospect for builders and stands in the way of actually constructing it. A city-commissioned study by the NYU Furman Center concluded, "The largest and most difficult zoning constraint affecting the development of new housing has been the requirement of building on-site parking spaces."

Some changes to the de Blasio plan, which includes many other components beyond the rewrite of parking requirements, are expected. Watering down the parking reforms, however, would be totally at odds with the goal of reducing housing costs, the advocates point out. "Off-street parking space requirements result in unnecessary costs that would be passed along to users who don’t need them, don’t really want them, might not even use them, and who may not be able to afford to pay for them,” they write.

The letter comes as electeds are staking out positions on the various pieces of the de Blasio housing plan. On Friday, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer said she opposes the larger proposal that includes parking reform, but she did not specifically mention parking requirements in her press release or the accompanying letter highlighting her concerns [PDF]. Also last week, City Council Member Donovan Richards wrote a piece in Gotham Gazette against the elimination of parking requirements, though his district does not include any areas that would be affected by City Hall's proposed parking reforms.

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