Nearly half of all parking spots at Metro Vancouver apartment buildings not being used: study

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Apartment parking spots going unused in Metro Vancouver
WATCH: As apartment parking spots sit idle in Metro Vancouver, some developers say eliminating parking requirements for buildings would significantly decrease the cost of housing. Aaron McArthur reports – May 1, 2019

​When it comes to housing in Metro Vancouver, there is one component that has an oversupply: parking.

That’s according to a new study presented to the Metro Vancouver board Wednesday, which says there are far more parking spaces than cars in many apartment and condo buildings in the region.

The study looked at 73 buildings in various municipalities, including strata and rental. Counting how many cars were parked after 11 p.m. on weekdays, the report’s authors concluded there were on average 42 per cent more spaces than cars in strata buildings and 35 per cent more in rental units.

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The numbers varied, but were significantly higher if the building was closer to transit.

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The report echos what the development industry has been saying for more than a decade: municipal parking requirements are excessive and add significantly to the cost of homes.

The average parking stall costs a building tens of thousands of dollars and they are often sold at a loss, with the extra money simply getting transferred to the consumer.

Jon Strovell, president of Reliance Properties, says on his last project he sold parking stalls for $60,000 each, and likely lost $40,000 per piece of cement. The story is the same at a recent Surrey project.

“We built 400 units, with the city giving us a reduction in parking requirements,” Strovell said. “We sold the building out, but we still had 100 parking spots we couldn’t sell.”

Developers say if they can reduce the parking spots, not only will home buyers see a difference in the price of units, but there will be a wider variety of homes they can build. The missing middle, or larger homes suitable for families, would be easier to start if the restrictions on parking could be removed.

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The perception in the public is that new development comes with extra traffic. Municipal governments have accommodated public concerns by mandating parking minimums, but according to the Urban Development Institute, parking spaces have rarely been over-utilized.

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“The numbers just don’t bear that out,” president and CEO Anne McMullin said. “The numbers of cars just aren’t there … the stalls aren’t being used.”

In Vancouver, the city has mostly eliminated the need for parking on the downtown peninsula, and developers are judging the market conditions for themselves.

Instead of parking spaces, the focus is now on appropriate loading areas and places for car shares and electric vehicles.

According to Rupert Campbell, a developer with the Cape Group, the more urban the population gets, the less need there is for onsite parking.

“Parking spots used to be thought of as an essential component of apartments, but the reality is … it is a luxury,” he said.

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