Denver is reducing the minimal parking necessities for brand spanking new developments to encourage reasonably priced housing
Late last month, in a series of Zoning Code changes acclaimed by dozens of local nonprofits and companies that support the Denver City council significantly reduced minimum Park Requirements for new housing developments. The changes come as Colorados largest metropolitan area is experiencing breakneck growth that is seriously affecting local housing markets.
In Denver, where planners haven’t updated minimum parking spaces in over a decade, some parts of the city require up to 1.25 parking spaces per unit. In more densely populated areas with significantly better connections to public transport, the minimum parking spaces drop to 0.25 parking spaces per unit, but a report from the regional transport District (RTD) points out that the availability of parking is still well above actual demand.
According to the local transportation authority, approximately 61 percent of low-income households in Denver do not have a car. Affordable housing New buildings offer around 50 percent more parking space than is used by residents, often at costs of 20,000 to 30,000 US dollars per parking space. For many proponents of housing, this means an enormous waste of resources and space.
Urbanists across the country argue that the parking minimum is an outdated relic of post-war urban regeneration programs in cities like Denver, as pictured here. (Nick DeWolf / Courtesy of the Nick DeWolf Foundation)
Many developers in the metropolitan area have turned away from promising and much-needed affordable housing projects, arguing that Denver parking minimums made certain buildings impossible to realize. As reported by Denverite Last summer, due to the parking regulations at the time, the construction of the 36-unit Charity’s House Apartments came to a complete standstill. Denver Community Planning and Development’s analiese Hock pointed out that many projects don’t even make it for local government scrutiny, as developers often calculate that the cost of building and maintaining excess parking is not worth investing in affordable housing .
As the housing crisis in Denver worsened day by day, city council members unanimously voted to introduce new minimum parking spaces of 0.1 spaces per unit, or one space for every ten units. The move received widespread support from industry groups, advocacy groups, and public institutions, including the Colorado Department of Local Affairs, Division of Housing.
According to 5280 magazine, Cassie Slade, director of Denver-based engineering firm Fox Tuttle, is optimistic about how the city can divert money that would otherwise have been spent on idle parking: “There are many opportunities. Suddenly you can redistribute the money and / or the space for other things that people with lower incomes need in order to have their self-esteem and to rebuild their lives and have a place to stay. “