The future of (more) affordable city housing: lose the car parks
“We want and like cars, they suit our lives and the lives we choose to live.”
Thus spake a high-profile commentator, one of many loud voices in Auckland decrying Auckland’s new inner-city Ockham Residential apartment complex (below). Its crime? Daring to not provide a car park with any of its homes.
Other NZ Herald voices, including property editor Anne Gibson, saw the complex (called The Daisy after its street address) as part of “the whole anti-car move that is going on in Auckland”. An apartment block with no car parks — just space for bikes, scooters and two shared cars — was bound to make Auckland’s already car-ridden landscape worse, reported Noted‘s Chris Barton.
Thing is, not providing a carpark is the main reason why the Daisy’s apartments were so affordable: just 60% of the median Auckland price for their type.
Let’s think about this for a minute.
Minimum parking requirements – the obligation to provide x many carparks per head of population you’re planning to accommodate – are basically the devil, for cities.
Not only do MPRs bring all the iniquities of market-distorting over-regulation, they also suppress the private sector’s innovation that invariably flourishes when markets have well-founded parameters clearly set. (What does that mean? Good is “50% lower household carbon footprint for everyone who lives in a new build”. Bad is “provide a car park for every 1.6 humans who will dwell in your building“).
Let’s think about some current Wellington city developments. Shelly Bay is suffering a hailstorm of criticism, reckons and commentary, but some of the better-founded questions are about transport.
Due to its Special Housing Area status, plus a bunch of other things, they didn’t have to do much about the narrow coastal road that’s the only access. There’s talk of a ferry, which is promising. But – we’d love to be wrong – we gather that most apartments would have a carpark.
In an age of Mevo and Uber and Ola and Zoomy and bikeshare and better busing and mass transit between city and airport?
Mostly, we suspect, the logic goes “it’s kinda for fancy people. And fancy people have to have at minimum a Lexus or a Range Rover Vogue, and a Porsche Cayenne for the school run otherwise… how will people know they’re fancy?! They won’t want to buy apartments otherwise.”
Leaving aside for a moment questions about the ethics of that logic, and the freedom of the market to offer things people want to buy at prices the providers want to offer them…
If it was more ‘legit’ not to provide car parking, how would this change life at Shelly Bay? How would this change its marketability? How would it change the whole proposition, including its effects on the city at large?
Anyway, given that transport is such a whopping percentage of Wellington’s carbon footprint [PDF], shouldn’t it be the default that active and sustainable travel is the first-best choice for people living in central Wellington?
How “central” is enough? How close to the city centre or to a suburban centre is “close enough”, given our near future with Let’s Get Wellington Moving, to warrant not assuming everyone will want to own and run a car?
The Daisy: Why we did it
Transport, architecture, planning – an architect’s perspective on Shelly Bay
The Daisy and Ockham Residential’s interesting affordability schemes