Neighborhood Group Votes for More Parking, Higher Rents

The Southwest Journal reports on a housing competition in Minneapolis:

Lyndale neighborhood residents heard two competing development concepts Monday for 3329 Nicollet Ave., and voted 20-11 in favor of the pitch that provided the most parking.

The developers’ concepts ranged from eight-unit townhouses rising three stories with garages, to a four-story apartment building with at least 32 units and nine surface parking spaces.

The article gives the impression that this vote was a referendum on parking, and how to build as much of it as possible. For anyone who’s been to a neighborhood development meeting, this preoccupation with parking should sound familiar. Local landlord Carol Greenwood, speaking about about new people moving to the Lyndale neighborhood, said, “they all have cars, and they all want a parking spot.” It’s worth pointing out that 32% of Lyndale households own no vehicle. You might say an apartment building with reduced parking is compatible with the existing neighborhood character. is a great tool car-free residents can use to prove they aren't mythical creatures. is a great tool car-free residents can use to prove they aren’t mythical creatures.

Despite having a significant number of car-free households, new apartment buildings in Minneapolis were required starting in the 1960s to provide parking at a minimum ratio of one space per dwelling unit. Parking minimums are a problem because parking is expensive to build. Overbuilding parking for people who don’t need it is a bad idea, if you care about housing affordability. In 2015, with an eye towards easing the cost of housing, the Minneapolis City Council enacted parking reform which allowed developers to build less parking at locations near frequent public transit. The vacant lot at 3329 Nicollet Ave is one such location.

People complain a lot about private developers building unaffordable luxury housing. Here we have a case where the city is selling the land; unlike with those other, luxury projects, the city gets to choose. It would be great if we could favor the proposal that provides the most affordable result.