The Obama administration released a toolkit Monday meant to help cities tackle the affordable housing crisis. For city planners, few of the recommendations were unfamiliar: taxing vacant land, zoning for density, letting homeowners build additional dwellings in their backyards and property tax abatements. Yet, of the 10 bullet items, one immediately dominated conversation among urbanists: eliminating parking minimums.
That parking minimums don’t encourage affordable smart growth isn’t news, but hearing the White House admit as much is. Wired reported that “the war on city parking just got serious,” and declared the document an important step in the “very slow death of the parking lot.” The Washington Post said the toolkit is the “policy paper many urban planners have been waiting for,” in no small part for its “anti-parking stance.”
Of course, the document only contains recommendations — the federal government can’t supersede most local zoning laws — and its decree against parking minimums was targeted at larger cities with other transportation options. “When transit-oriented developments are intended to help reduce automobile dependence,” the document states, “parking requirements can undermine that goal by inducing new residents to drive, thereby counteracting city goals for increased use of public transit, walking and biking.”
Yet, in the midst of a presidential election season that’s seen affordable housing and urban policy only on the fringes, some are happy to hear the current president, at least, is a YIMBY. Here, the celebratory (and occasionally snarky) reactions of anti-parking minimums advocates.
Amen! @WhiteHouse just recommended eliminating off street parking requirements. Curious to see how will suburban liberals respond.— Zane Selvans (@ZaneSelvans) September 26, 2016
Obama: Eliminate all parking minimums, for social justice. https://t.co/EkRhUqXhi5— Dan Keshet (@DanKeshet) September 26, 2016
I can’t wait for the Obama White House summit on mandatory parking minimums https://t.co/7tTk5R9k7u— LOLLL Browns (@twkovach) September 26, 2016
YES! Get rid of off-street parking requirements/minimums! They drive up rents and sale prices, which prices people out of housing. https://t.co/Sx9CJhiFo2— ActionCmteForTransit (@actfortransit) September 28, 2016
Kelsey E. Thomas is a former associate editor at Next City.