Multifamily Developers: Addressing Parking Challenges and Trends

By February 11, 2024Multi-Family Living

Parking has become a contentious issue for multifamily developers. On the one hand, with more people having roommates, the traditional one space per apartment may not be enough. On the other, there is pressure to reduce parking to lower costs and encourage car-free lifestyles. A lot depends on where your project is located, but here are some things to consider.

High Housing Costs Mean More Roommates

Higher housing costs mean that solo renting is becoming less and less feasible. There has been a 5.9% increase in people choosing to have roommates. In some high value markets, such as New York, San Francisco, or D.C., this might be their only choice. Two incomes are needed to afford many rentals, even smaller ones.

Two “households” per unit often equals two vehicles per unit. This is less of a challenge in the high density and reasonably walkable cities mentioned above. However, this can be more of an issue in second-tier markets where having a vehicle is often essential.

This impacts parking ratios. And if people can’t reliably park, then this increases turnover. Nobody wants to be circling the lot at the end of the day or forced to pay for overnight parking nearby. For some residents, the latter may not even be an option.

Lower Parking Space Requirements

There are many reasons why jurisdictions are lowering the number of parking spaces required, often to less than one per unit. These include reducing costs to lower rents, encouraging sustainability, and reducing traffic. It’s also becoming clear that in at least some places, excessive parking actively encourages car ownership.

Minneapolis, for example, reduced it to one parking space for every other unit for larger projects, and eliminated the parking requirement altogether for projects with 50 or fewer units located near high-frequency transit. Buffalo removed requirements citywide for smaller developments and Hartford removed them for all developments. Even some suburbs are starting to implement this.

This does lower costs significantly, which then lowers the acquisition cost for landlords and is often passed on to tenants in the form of lower rents. In some cases, too, it allows the construction of new units in spaces that wouldn’t otherwise allow them.

But this creates a challenge for people who do need a car, whether for their regular commute, because of a disability that makes it hard to use public transportation, or because they regularly need to move stuff. Apartments with parking end up at a premium.

These two things are now causing a bit of a parking war for multifamily developers. When there are no minimums, how many parking spaces do you provide? Who gets to use them? Some landlords have resorted to charging for parking spaces separately. Other developments might use commercial parking spots nearby, which are available at night for residents, but the growth in work-from-home may start to put pressure on these arrangements.


Another trend to consider is the growing use of EVs. To own an EV people need access to a charger, and more and more renters are demanding that their community provide charging stations. Many landlords have been installing them, but one challenge is keeping people with ICE vehicles from parking in front of the chargers. A few states have mandatory requirements, but most landlords are providing them anyway.

Because of this demand, new builds that provide parking should be set up with plentiful EV chargers built in from the start. This is cheaper than a retrofit.

So, what should developers do? How much parking to provide should be determined by unit size (two- and three-bedroom apartments are more likely to be occupied by multiple unrelated individuals) and the feasibility of other transit options. When parking is provided, building in EV charger facilities will save money in the long run. The demand for parking spaces, especially in high-density cities, is declining, but many people still need or want a car.

Ted Trout can help you work through your parking issues, understand required minimums, and make the right decision for your development’s size, location, and transit connections. We are a multifamily architecture company with years of experience helping developers design buildings people want to live in. Get in touch with our architecture firm in Houston, Texas, to discuss your project and learn more.