Removing parking spot minimums in Hamiton, Burlington could reduce real estate cost: report

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Published May 9, 2022 at 2:05 pm

Removing parking spot minimums in Hamiton, Burlington could reduce real estate cost: report
Removing parking spot minimums in Hamilton and Burlington could reduce the cost of real estate, create sustainable growth, and promote walkable communities.

The reduction or removal of parking spot minimums in Hamilton and Burlington could reduce the cost of real estate, create sustainable growth, and promote walkable communities, according to a report from Toronto Metropolitan University.

Current zoning by-laws in Hamilton and Burlington require a minimum number of parking spots, depending on the size of the development.

The report, prepared for the West End Home Builders’ Association (WEHBA), cites examples from several different municipalities in North America where minimum parking spot requirements were either relaxed or removed entirely. Edmonton and Ottawa, for example, experienced “no negative impacts” after their respective by-laws were amended.

“North American society remains automobile dominant. This has led to an overabundance of parking spaces applicable to both Hamilton and Burlington,” according to the report. “The result is wasted space, unsightly garages, excess pollution from car exhaust, and street water runoff.”

“Today’s cities are interested in sustainability, best land use, the inclusion of public space, better public transit and encouragement for the citizenry to walk, bike, or take public transit to work. Under these circumstances, parking reform is not only needed, but also an integral part of a broader city revitalization plan.”

The WEHBA is a residential construction advocacy and resource group.

The report found that each individual parking spot can cost developers anywhere from $30,000 to $80,000 in Hamilton and Burlington. Those costs get passed on to the consumer, escalating the cost of housing and rent.

“Elimination of parking requirements for new developments sounds scary without further explanation,” the report reads. “This change does not mean any new parking. Instead, it allows the developer to look at the market, the location, the connection to transit and other demographic factors to arrive at a more reasonable parking allowance within new developments.”

For example, in an urban area near a transit hub, such as a commuter railway station, a residential developer can most likely eliminate off-street parking.

“The key is the adequacy of public transport,” the report continues. “Governments in North America have regulated parking in their municipalities for the past half-century. Understandably, governments may be reluctant to give up this regulation.”

In the United States, Seattle reduced or eliminated off-street parking, particularly in proximity to transit hubs, back in 2006. While Denver eliminated minimum off-street parking requirements city-wide while increasing bicycle parking, electric vehicle charging stations, and public transport investment.

“The example of Salt Lake City is instructive in this respect, whereby by creating separate sectors that have different parking needs, Salt Lake City has been able to tailor more specifically parking needs to the community based upon economic activity, land use, need for affordable housing while at the same time reducing the requirements,” according to the report.

This approach may be ideal for Hamilton, as a municipality with urban, suburban, and rural neighbourhoods.

Burlington, meanwhile, has conducted studies on vacant parking. In 2013, it was reported that 40 per cent of private parking in lots and garages were vacant most of the time. In the downtown area during peak periods 30 per cent of parking remained vacant.

A study into car usage of Burlington residents further supported earlier findings, as 39 per cent of working residents do not drive to work.

The WEHBA report emphasizes that the provision of parking through zoning should not be a one size fits all solution.

“Many parking lots are too large; even at peak usage, they are often partially full. This is often due to high parking minimums in zoning. By reducing or eliminating these requirements, parking can be supplied at rates that reflect actual usage,” reads the report.

Removing parking spot minimums in Hamiton, Burlington could reduce real estate cost: report

There have been changes made in both Hamilton and Burlington.

Parking regulations in downtown Hamilton were already amended partially, reducing them for buildings with more than 12 residential units, and eliminating them for buildings with 12 or fewer units. Parking regulations were also reduced, but not fully eliminated, for institutional and commercial use. Multiple dwelling buildings with excess parking spaces are now permitted to rent to nonresidents.

In Burlington, parking regulations for new developments were reduced but not eliminated, with a commitment to revisit the issue.

“Current parking provisions are not aligned with the goals and objectives of planning policies that Hamilton and Burlington have set as they grow and change,” the report continues. “Representing an outdated image of cities, mobility, and automobile dependence, parking minimums are unsustainable, restrict growth, and are expensive.”

“To adapt to evolving contexts and address current urban issues, parking minimums should be reformed to achieve complete communities. Parking reform will empower residents, businesses, and developers to provide the right amount of parking which best serves their communities.”

The full report can be found online here.

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