Examples of Bold Affordability Actions
Many peer cities are reforming development policies and parking requirements to create more affordable and inclusive neighborhoods and more efficient and equitable transportation systems. Below are a few recent examples.
Oregon legalized something that has been all but banned in most American communities for nearly a century: apartments. Oregon passed House Bill 2001, the latest and largest victory for a national movement to increase density in communities that have severely restricted what can be built—and as a result, who may live there. Cities also have flexibility to incentivize projects that create new below-market homes. Portland will offer bonuses that allow slightly larger buildings for additional building units and lower prices.
Minneapolis passed an ambitious housing reform which allows duplexes and triplexes in every neighborhood citywide, most of which were formerly reserved for nothing but single-family houses. Streets with frequent public transit service will also allow greater building height and intensity, up to 4 stories in many locations and 6 stories closer to the city center. This will allow those areas to grow to the next increment of intensity, and to make more productive use of transit investments by making it possible for more people to live in walking distance of transit.
Legalizing apartments in residential areas is critical to increasing affordability and inclusivity. Affordable infill allows lower-income households to locate closer to jobs, schools, and amenities, making transit more viable and reducing automobile traffic, and shorter commutes are associated with greater economic mobility. That is why California’s zoning override bill, the More HOMES Act, was endorsed by Habitat for Humanity and the Non-Profit Housing Association of Northern California, a coalition of 750 affordable-housing groups.
Buffalo, New York recently became the first major U.S. city to eliminate minimum parking requirements. This is part of a six-year-long initiative called the Buffalo Green Code, which rewrote zoning and land-use regulations to make them simpler and easier to understand. The new code also follows a relatively new concept called form-based zoning, which emphasizes the relationship between public space and buildings.
San Francisco recently became the largest U.S. city to eliminate parking requirements, part of a set of policy reforms to encourage more affordable and equitable development, and more sustainable transportation. This is predicted to save $25,000 to $50,000 per new housing unit, and save the average tenant $1,700 annually in reduced rent. Many other cities are reducing or eliminating minimum parking requirements, as indicated in the map below.
What is Victoria Doing?
Victoria has reduced some parking requirements based on parking demand studies which showed that current standards are often much higher than needed, particularly for lower-priced housing in central locations, but still requires 0.75 to 1.55 spaces for most residential units. Experts consider parking requirements unnecessary and harmful, “a fertility drug for cars,” that contradict most other community goals including increased affordability, reducing traffic problems, increasing equity, environmental protection and more compact development.
Eliminating parking requirements does not eliminate parking or motor vehicles, it simply allows developers to decide how much parking to provide based on consumer demand, which shifts the market from subsidized to priced parking, so motorists pay directly for parking rather than imposing the costs on everybody, including people who don’t own cars. Many of Victoria’s most successful and livable districts have limited off-street parking, far less than current zoning codes require, resulting in more efficient management of available spaces.