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More Cities Reclaim Empty Parking Spaces

With an overabundance of parking spaces—more of which are going unused these days thanks to the rise of ride sharing and remote work—American cities are seeking to reclaim land currently used for lots and garages, according to The Wall Street Journal (subscription). 

What’s going on: “Garages and parking lots are being demolished. New buildings now come with fewer spots. Major retailers are leasing unused spaces for new development. And local governments are scrapping decades-old minimum-parking rules for new buildings.”

  • “Urban planners and economists say this helps to reduce construction costs, hold down rents, relieve congestion, revitalize cities and mitigate the national housing shortage by making better use of some of the country’s most valuable land.”

Why it’s important: Without laws that mandate specific numbers of parking spaces for new residential construction, developers can build more units, which can help mitigate the national housing shortage.  

  • In 2020, the Charlotte, North Carolina, city council gave rezoning approval to a local developer for a 104-unit apartment building with no resident parking, allowing for the construction of about 25% more units and lower rents, according to the Journal.
  • A significant amount of the nation’s mandated parking is rarely used, yet its costs are passed on to consumers in the form of higher rents and retail prices.

A “huge impact”: “‘Eliminating parking requirements can have this huge impact on the quality of life and sustainability of a community,’ said Sara Bronin, an architecture professor at Cornell University. ‘It is among the most significant changes that a local government can make.’”

  • Increasingly, cities doing away with parking requirements see development booms, population growth and general downtown revivals.

Parking and taxes: Also driving the change in some cities is the tax situation.

  • “A 22.5% gross-receipts tax on parking operators is pushing many to sell or redevelop their properties, said Robert Zuritsky, chief executive of Parkway Corp., a Philadelphia real-estate company that owns and operates parking facilities.”
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