Apartments for Cars?

Within the space of three months two apartment developments in Moreland have attempted to provide zero car parking spaces. The Nightingale by Breathe Architecture failed despite support from Moreland Council while the Vincent Corporation succeeded despite opposition from the council. “No such arrangements [train, tram, bus, bike, foot] … are as convenient as private car ownership” argued VCAT senior member Russell Byard. The Planning Minister Richard Wynn, stated VCAT was out of touch when rejecting the Nightingale, a statement supported by RMIT academic Stephen Rowley who said “Applying minimum parking requirements to buildings is not an effective way to protect the communal resource of on-street parking supply”[i].

While each site and design must be considered on its merits and neither VCAT nor Council are required to be consistent, the bigger questions are, can removing car parking requirements create more affordable housing? What role will individual car ownership have in the future?

“your car sits idle and depreciating for 96% of its life”[ii]

dusty car

This car was spotted ‘parked’ in the TIPTOP basement car park in Brunswick. Could the public and active transport options have proved so convenient the owner decided to hand in the plates and save on registration fees?

The cost for the convenience of having a dedicated car parking space on site is between $30 and $50K, depending on if the car park is located above ground level or how deep below, which is around 10% of the asking price of a new single bedroom apartment. A saving that the average home buyer is unlikely to scoff at. However VCAT member Russell Byard questions this claim stating: “The proposed absence of on site car parking is one aspect of this alleged affordability. However, I am not persuaded that there is any mechanism whereby such affordability would be achieved, or maintained in relation to succeeding generations of owners” – on the Nightingale[iii].

In a normal development model it would be right to question whether the savings made on construction would be passed on to buyers, however the investors who pulled together the capital to start this project are the future tenants. The price per apartment may not be very cheap for this locality, but that is likely a result of greater investment in cutting edge sustainability features and high quality fit out which the previous Commons achieved and the Nightingale is attempts to exceed which prices these developments at similar levels to a conventional apartment car park included. A conscious trade-off between car parking or say, roof top gardens has allowed future owners to achieve highly sought after design features without paying extra.

New approaches to car parking spaces requirements for inner city

London removed minimum parking requirements in 2004 which resulted in a third less parking spaces being created according to Elizabeth Taylor, a housing and planning expert at RMIT who is researching Melbourne’s parking policies[iv]. Despite initial resistance from Developers fearing reduced demand, it turns out that many young professionals who want to live Inner city don’t really care for car parking spaces as they don’t need cars. In conjunction with high investment in public transport and councils guaranteeing car share pods within 3 minutes’ walk areas like Hackney have increased their population by 45,000 while reducing cars by 3,000[v].

Australian cities are very different from London having evolved with the rapid uptake of cars rather than having to shoehorn them through winding lanes. However the desires of young urban professionals may not be so different. A quarter of Melburnians who live in apartments do not own cars[vi]. It would be very interesting to know how far or often the other cars are driven.

The City of Melbourne has policies that reduce car parking requirements where developments are close to high volume public transport. In Sydney new parking requirements allowed One Central Park to provide no car parking space for over half the 1000+ apartments sold while establishing Sydney’s largest car share pod on site[vii].

In order for more consistency it is clear Moreland will need to develop its own amendments to clarify when and where no off street car parking spaces are required. Proximity to high volume, high frequency public transport, shops and amenities within bicycling or walking distance would appear to be essential. This description fits the southern sections of the municipality, the rest of Moreland being very reliant on private car use and requiring on street parking to be preserved from infill development.

Meanwhile transport planners are envisioning being able to order a driver-less car from a local node which would pick you up from your front door and deliver you to your destination, to then be used by someone else for another journey[viii].

On the other side a new apartment in Miami boasts a car lift to park your luxury vehicle in your apartment[ix]. How convenient is that?

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