Lack of visitor parking in new condos impacting ‘social isolation’: Toronto councillor

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New condos being built in Toronto – especially in the suburbs – are excluding a certain group: visitors arriving by car, one councillor is arguing.

Willowdale Coun. Lily Cheng is calling on city staff to consider the “greater need” for visitor parking in the suburbs. When compared with the downtown, new projects in those areas are coming with a lack of visitor parking spaces that could result in a spillover of illegal parking in surrounding areas, she said.

“New developments are being approved with minimal visitor parking. This will present some foreseeable challenges, especially in the suburbs where there is neither permitted street parking, nor sufficient public parking lots available,” Cheng said in an ask to the city’s planning and housing committee.

“Having sufficient visitor parking is very important to ensure that people with visitors have somewhere for their visitors to park. Further, we want to ensure there is sufficient visitor parking to encourage social interactions rather than presenting visitor parking challenges that could exacerbate the already serious social isolation that is happening in our city.”

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As an example, Cheng said a development in her ward was originally proposed with 513 residential units, and only seven visitor parking spaces. She said the developer agreed to increase the amount of visitor parking spots to 14 after talks, but Cheng said that will still be “too low” to meet potential demand.

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“The impact of limited visitor parking will spill over to the surrounding areas resulting in illegal parking or having no parking left for visitors of those who live in longstanding surrounding communities,” she said in her ask, which is supported by Scarborough Rouge-Park Coun. Jennifer McKelvie.

“Taxpayers will have to absorb the costs of dealing with these challenges created by the cost savings enjoyed by developers in offering limited visitor parking in new high-density developments.”

The issue can be looked at as part of the city’s ongoing review of parking requirements in the zoning bylaw, and Ontario’s Cutting Red Tape to Build More Homes Act, Cheng said. She’s asking for a report due no later than the fourth quarter of 2024.

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‘No compelling reason’ to alter visitor parking requirements, industry group argues

Minimum parking requirements for new residential projects haven’t been required since October 2022, Richard Lyall, president of the Residential Construction Council of Ontario (RESCON), said in a letter to the committee.

Lyall said when it comes to visitor parking, the determinations for spaces are made on a “site-specific basis” and “reflect the realities of a given site.”

Vehicles are parked in a Toronto condominium’s underground visitor parking lot on June 12, 2024. Willowdale Coun. Lily Cheng is asking city staff to consider the greater need for visitor parking in suburban areas when compared to downtown. Aaron D'Andrea/Global News

Parking stalls are expensive to construct, coming in anywhere between $80,00 and $120,000 per stall, Lyall argued, adding that the costs are passed onto the buyer and directly impact affordability.

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Lyall added in the suburbs, the city allows on-street parking for up to three hours in some parts, meaning spaces aren’t occupied for long periods of time.

“We believe that with these considerations in mind, there is no compelling reason to alter visitor parking requirements, particularly any review that would establish new minimums,” Lyall said.

“Site-specific reviews can address any concerns that might be raised during the planning approvals process and ensure that project affordability is not compromised. As noted, parking minimums add considerable costs to projects.”

In the letter, Lyall advocated for a reconsideration of regulations to encourage above-ground parking incorporated into the base building, versus below-grade parking.

“With modern and updated approaches, above-grade parking provides practical, visually appealing and measured alternatives to constructing underground parking, which is as noted exorbitantly expensive and time-intensive,” Lyall said.

Cheng’s ask was debated by the planning and housing committee on Thursday, and was adopted with amendments.

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