Austin eliminates minimum parking requirements for new developments

Is largest city to end requirements in face of affordable housing crisis

Austin Eliminates Minimum Parking Requirements
Austin Council Member Zo Qadri (City of Austin, Getty)

Austin became the largest city in the United States to eliminate minimum parking requirements for new developments last week.

This measure, passed by City Council with an 8-2 vote, is meant to fight climate change and spur more housing construction amid an affordability crisis, the Texas Tribune reported. The parking-requirement ban applies to all property types citywide, including single-family homes, apartment buildings, offices and shopping malls.

Affordable housing advocates and climate change activists have long criticized parking minimums, which they argue inflate housing costs and perpetuate car dependence, a major contributor to carbon emissions. Removing parking requirements aligns with a national trend in major cities that have either scaled back or completely eliminated parking mandates. San Jose, a city similar in size to Austin, also eliminated such requirements last year.

“It gobbles up scarce land. It adds burdensome costs to developments that get passed on to renters and buyers. It makes it harder for small businesses to get off the ground. And it harms walkability and actively works against our public investments in transit, bike lanes, trails and sidewalks,” said Council Member Zo Qadri, who authored the proposal.

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Previously, Austin required every single-family home to have space for at least two cars. For apartments, the requirement was one-and-a-half spaces for a one-bedroom unit, with an additional half space for each extra bedroom. 

The cost of building and maintaining parking spaces is substantial, with estimates ranging from $5,000 to $10,000 per spot in a surface lot and $25,000 to $65,000 per space in a parking garage. Requiring one additional parking space per housing unit can drive up rent by $200 per month, the outlet said, citing a report by the city of Austin. That reduces the number of units that developers could build on the same land.

Opponents of the measure, particularly neighborhood groups, have concerns about potential parking congestion on neighboring streets. However, proponents argue that the removal of parking minimums will encourage more walkable development and reduce carbon emissions, aligning with the city’s environmental goals.

—Quinn Donoghue 

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