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Parking and housing

“It’s unfair to have cities where parking is free for cars and housing is expensive for people.”

-Donald Shoup 

Cars enable a kind of mobility that can be very convenient, but they take up a lot of room and need parking at every destination—some say there are as many as 8 parking spaces per vehicle. 

To prevent cars from taking up all the available street spaces, cities have relied on minimum parking requirements since the 1950s to ensure that each development has parking for its customers. These requirements have had lasting negative impacts on our city fabric, without solving the parking problem. The main impacts in relation to housing are preventing the construction of affordable units in high demand areas while encouraging driving.


Parking is expensive to build and those costs get passed on to everyone except the driver. A single parking spot can add 12.5% to the price of an apartment cost. Parking requirements provide free parking for drivers and:

  • Make consumer goods and market-rate housing more expensive 

  • Reduce the amount of space for tax-generating uses 

  • Encourage people to own more cars and drive more frequently

Minimum parking requirements are a failed policy experiment, and cities are finally starting to catch on. No one can predict major shifts in the transportation industry, but often, developers can see trends before bureaucrats. Requiring storage for private vehicles in dense developments is a remnant of 1950s era planning that has made the much-loved courtyard apartment complex illegal in Chicago. Neighborhoods like Logan Square and Hyde Park still have many such complexes that provide reasonably affordable housing at a low height of 3- and 4- stories. Changes to minimum parking requirements at transit stations have allowed for mega-projects in desirable neighborhoods, but more projects can be built at the human scale if we prioritize providing shelter for people over storage for cars.

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