With rapid transit expanding into Coquitlam in the form of the new Evergreen Line there is a significant new incentive to encourage homeowners away from car usage and on to public transport.
The new line will also support an increase in high-density development near and around transit stations in the municipality - development that is less likely to require the city's prescribed level of parking due to the extension of
TransLink's SkyTrain system into the area.
The construction cost of an underground parking space in these new transit-oriented communities generally
equates to between $15,000 and $40,000. New homeowners, many first-time buyers and existing residents looking to downsize, ultimately incur the cost of parking construction in the price of their units as these costs are invariably passed on by the developer.
Fair enough if you are a vehicle owner, but in instances where the very rationale for living near transit reduces the need for a parking space, the question remains, why build it?
Fundamentally, if the home-buying market chooses to save $40,000 on the price of their new home, reduce their mortgage repayments, take advantage of public transport and forgo un-needed parking, then this option should be made freely available.
The city indeed recognizes that its existing parking policy is somewhat onerous, in this context, and is considering measures to address the issue. However those measures, detailed in a report to council dated Oct. 29, do not go far enough.
The favoured solution embodied in the draft proposal lacks a strong grounding in logic. Rather than simply reducing parking construction requirements to a level that homebuyers and the market prefer, council is considering charging developers, and by extension homebuyers, $20,000 not to have a parking stall in their building.
The rationale is that if new and first-time homebuyers can save on the cost of their home by forgoing an unwanted parking spot, council deserves to collect $20,000 for the privilege
- or almost 50 per cent of the estimated construction savings on a typical underground car space.
It is counterintuitive for any local government to overregulate construction standards and then leverage payment from developers and homebuyers in order to relax those standards. Revenue-generating tactics that penalize homeowners - such as those detailed by Coquitlam's proposed "payment in lieu of parking" policy - not only have an adverse effect on social priorities, such as improving housing affordability, they also cumulatively weaken the confidence of investors and therefore the economic growth prospects of a city.
The municipality is also proposing that the funds collected - from homeowners who do not require parking - be allocated to the construction of public parking facilities to the benefit of residents and car users from outside the area. Perhaps there is a need to build more public parking facilities in Coquitlam, but precisely why new homebuyers in transit-oriented communities along the Evergreen Line - who do not benefit - should finance the broader car-using community for this service is unclear.
If there is no benefit to new homebuyers who pay $20,000 for the privilege of not having a parking space in their building, how then can this policy be justified? If TransLink's investment in the new Evergreen Line has resulted in reduced parking requirements for new development, why then artificially maintain existing regulations for no other purpose than to view homebuyers in Coquitlam as a revenue stream for council?
The City of Coquitlam's proposal remains in draft form until decided upon by council. The Urban Development Institute (UDI) has every confidence in the competence and professionalism of the city's councillors. We have a strong appreciation for this council's efforts and accomplishments in supporting investment in the local community and their ability to make sound policy decisions.
For these reasons, UDI is confident that the proposed parking policy will be re-evaluated by city staff and common sense will prevail.
Anne McMullin President and CEO Urban Development Institute