The trouble with minimum parking requirements

On January 22, Senator Omar Fateh held a press conference about a bill to eliminate minimum parking requirements around the state. He plans to introduce the bill in the 2024 legislative session, and it reads,

(a) Notwithstanding any other provision of law, home rule charter, or ordinance to the contrary, a political subdivision shall not impose minimum parking mandates for residential, commercial, or industrial properties within its jurisdiction.
(b) For purposes of this section, “minimum parking mandate” means a law, rule, or
ordinance that specifies a minimum number of off-street vehicle parking spaces, including within a garage or other enclosed area.
(c) This section does not prohibit a political subdivision from passing an ordinance under section 169.346, subdivision 4, related to disability parking spaces. This section does not apply to bicycle parking requirements, including for electric-assisted bicycles

The issue of parking requirements has not been without controversy. This is mostly because it has brought together two unlikely allies — environmentalists who want to get rid of driving and are therefore convinced that taking away parking is the way to go, and housing advocates who want to eliminate barriers to housing construction. For both of these groups, there is one sell — minimum parking requirements drive up the cost of housing and thereby should be eliminated.

But while the intended results for both of these groups are different, there is merit to the argument that parking requirements drive up the cost of housing. Above-ground parking takes up space. And in places like the Twin Cities, where land is scarce, one parking spot could mean extra thousands of dollars in development costs or less housing development.

Of course, developers can choose to dig down and provide parking below ground. But that entails even higher costs compared to above-ground parking. In some instances, below-ground parking could mean tens of thousands of dollars in development costs.

This becomes a problem, especially in instances where developers are forced by minimum parking requirements to provide parking above what they consider optimal. In those cases, businesses, homeowners, and renters are forced to pay for parking which is not needed, and would not exist.

Evidence from numerous places such as Seattle has shown that the elimination of minimum parking requirements was followed by a reduction in the quantity of parking provided by developers, saving hundreds of millions of dollars.

The trouble with parking requirements

There is no such thing as free parking. The cost of parking gets built into the cost of housing, and in some instances, it manifests itself through less housing development as parking takes over space that could have gone to housing.

So, the trouble with minimum parking requirements is that it forces people to pay for parking in instances where they would rather not. And that is now how the free market works.

As research by American Experiment has shown, the lack of affordable housing in Minnesota and the Twin Cities is largely a result of excessive fees and regulations.

We cannot cannot talk about eliminating barriers to housing development without touching minimum parking requirements.

But if indeed eliminating parking requirements is about eliminating barriers to housing construction, then we shouldn’t stop there. Housing reform has to go beyond parking requirements to other things such as minimum lot requirements, density requirements, and height requirements. Other regulations that drive up the cost of housing include rules about aesthetics, rules about Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs), zoning rules, as well as excessive fees. Even the permitting process for housing is also in need of reform.