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BEPPLE – Less parking and more housing makes perfect sense

(Image: Robert Ruggiero, Unsplash.com)

IF YOU WANT to build new housing in Kamloops, don’t forget that parking is king.

It doesn’t matter if the people living in the building don’t want parking.  It doesn’t matter that there is great transit available.  No matter that someone doesn’t have a driver’s license.

Most of all, it doesn’t matter that parking drives up the cost of housing.  Parking must be provided.

This week in council, Coun. Kathy Sinclair came out in favor of reducing minimum parking requirements on some types of housing, such as multi-family, and in some areas of Kamloops, such as the downtown core.  Her argument was that reducing the requirements for parking would reduce the cost of housing.  She is correct.

Providing parking costs money, which ultimately is paid for by the owner or renter of housing.  According to a 2018 Fraser Institute report, an above-ground parking spot costs $24,000, while an underground spot costs $36,000.

That’s a significant portion of the cost of a unit to build.  Then there is the ongoing maintenance, and property taxes.  And the lost opportunity of using the space for something other than parking, like more housing.

Sinclair’s council colleagues disagreed with her, arguing that lack of parking causes conflict, and that car sharing could be required by developers wanting to reduce parking.  One argued that people had the expectation of street parking directly in front of their house.

They felt developers needed to provide more on-site parking to ensure street parking stayed more available.  It was clear that abundant parking, not affordable housing, was on Sinclair’s colleagues’ minds.

Sinclair’s council colleagues ignored that not everyone has a vehicle.  They couldn’t imagine life without a car.

But, currently, about 40 per cent of people in Kamloops do not have a driver’s license.  Why create housing that pre-supposes that 100 per cent of residents will require parking?  Parking requirements assume that driving is the norm.

Sinclair’s council colleagues ignored that housing, not parking, is of higher value to society as a whole.

Whether it is seniors living on fixed incomes, university students who are under-housed, or the working poor, housing is more and more excessively expensive in Kamloops.  These people are not thinking about parking.  They just want a decent place to live at an affordable price.

Just looking at who lives in Kamloops makes it clear parking is not always required.  There are 15,000 on-campus students at Thompson Rivers University.  Almost 1 in 4 are over the age of 65. There are 30,000 people 15 years or older in Kamloops with incomes less than $30,000 per year.  All these groups drive less than the norm, if at all.

Additionally, people of all income levels who live downtown choose to do so because of its walkability and access to transit.  Making people pay for parking they do not  need makes housing more expensive, and is a waste of valuable land.  Requiring excessive parking requirements for multifamily residences in the centre of the city does not serve anyone well.

Look at a satellite image from space and you will see a large portion of our city’s land is dedicated to parking.  Housing has parking, and there is additional street parking in front of most residences.

That’s not even counting parking lots at businesses and public parks.    Kamloops is just another name for parking lot.  Everything else that makes up our city is secondary to the needs of parking.  Parking is king.

Going forward, we can keep designing our city for vehicles, or we can build a city for people.  Parking should not always be a requirement of housing, especially in the core of the city.  Developers should be free to provide parking if they see a demand.  But forcing all new housing in the core of the city to have excessive parking does not build a better city.

Housing, not parking, should be the priority.

Nancy Bepple is a former City councillor of Kamloops with a strong interest in community building projects.

About Mel Rothenburger (8559 Articles)
ArmchairMayor.ca is a forum about Kamloops and the world. It has more than one million views. Mel Rothenburger is the former Editor of The Daily News in Kamloops, B.C. (retiring in 2012), and past mayor of Kamloops (1999-2005). At ArmchairMayor.ca he is the publisher, editor, news editor, city editor, reporter, webmaster, and just about anything else you can think of. He is grateful for the contributions of several local columnists. This blog doesn't require a subscription but gratefully accepts donations to help defray costs.

3 Comments on BEPPLE – Less parking and more housing makes perfect sense

  1. Lessening parking requirements has been proposed and implemented in certain places long ago. It is nothing new. But Kamloops does not have great transit, obviously you, Nancy Bepple, does not ride the bus regularly. Also Kamloops does not have a safe bicycle commute from “somewhere to everywhere and back”. Also of note, citing the Fraser institute by a socially minded individual like Nancy Bepple…pretty odd in my view. But sure using land for living rather than parking is a good thought. I am perplexed by the stat that 40% of Kamloops-ians don’t have a driver licence. Is that really correct?

  2. John Noakes // June 16, 2021 at 11:46 AM // Reply

    Parking for new housing units; that is something to be considered.

    Of note is the development property, close to us, which had been a single family house on a large lot. It was replaced with a pair of “single family duplexes” that have very little parking space for the number of people who inhabit the new units.

    Although zoned as single family duplexes and built to fire standards that do not allow multi family occupancy (a “party” wall between the two halves instead of an actual fire wall), it would appear that there may be portions of the units that indeed are rented out.

    At the rezoning meeting, specific issues were raised and those issues included parking space, increased traffic and visibility issues. These very things have come home to roost and have been raised with various council members, city staff and bylaw. The response has been “ignore” and “ignore” and “ignore”.
    At times, the outside of the places resemble a parking lot for used vehicles. When I pointed out that street parking close to an intersection was not allowed (a particular bylaw specifically covers that), and that visibility upon entering an intersection has been compromised on a fairly regular basis, I was instructed that it is my responsibility to “inch forward into the intersection until I can see it is safe to make my turn”.

    I may question why rezoning meetings are even called or why folks living close to the development are invited to come to a meeting to waste their time.

    Parking should be a consideration for new units being built. Consideration for people living nearby should be given. An adequate response should be given when concerns raised at a rezoning hearing play out and obvious safety issues exist as a result of development that was approved while safety concerns were ignored.

  3. Jennie Stadnichuk // June 16, 2021 at 11:39 AM // Reply

    Great article Nancy! and thank you Councillor Kathy Sinclair who appears the only one on Council to have any practical sense! What’s going on with the others is a mystery – Yes, there are areas of Kamloops that have poor transit (Eastern areas of Dallas etc)., but they do at least have some transit. Other areas are relatively well served by transit. Living downtown is a bonus as walking is why most folks living there have chosen that location. Come on City Council please understand that other cities are choosing people over vehicles -and- are leading in this regard! Do some research and learn how Kamloops can choose to lead also! i.e., You need to look at the progress Vancouver has made: Sep. 20, 2017 — Get inspired by the way Vancouver has reduced reliance on cars by half. … so the next time there is a transit-focused ballot measure in your city, vote yes. … If you want more people to use public transit, you need to make it

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