Yesterday I looked at some of the changes being made to the residential zones in the Unitary Plan. For those interested, Anne Hartley’s amendments were discussed yesterday but haven’t been voted on yet. That should happen today after the councillors cover off some urban design issues. Council staff said they agreed with some of the proposed amendments but not some of the key ones like the removal of the unlimited density provisions on the Mixed Housing Suburban Zone.
Today I am going to look at an issue we have been very passionate about, Minimum Parking Requirements (MPRs). Generation Zero have helpfully put together many of the arguments against retaining minimum parking requirements into one easily understood graphic:
We strongly criticised the Draft Unitary Plan released in March for retaining parking minimums across the vast majority of Auckland, although recognising that the removal of minimums in some locations was certainly a step in the right direction. Just as a quick refresher, we looked at the parking minimums proposed in this post.
Since the feedback on the Draft Unitary Plan was received it seems like Council has done a bit more thinking about fine-tuning its approach to parking regulation – especially in line with the splitting of the Mixed Housing Zone into “Urban” and “Suburban” zones. The updated parking rules are available on the Council’s website now. So is a draft of what’s called the “Section 32 report“, which basically forms the justification for the different rules and regulations included on a topic in the Unitary Plan.
The main change to the parking regulations appears to have occurred in the former Mixed Housing Zone, with quite a complex arrangement of maximums and minimums now applying in the two parts of that zone – varying by the number of bedrooms per household unit. Previously developments in the mixed housing zone (that did not have the parking overlay) required a minimum of 1 carpark per for each studio or single bedroom dwelling or a minimum of 2 carparks for two or more bedroom dwellings. The new proposed rules are below:
It is a small step in the right direction to see that in the Mixed Housing Urban zone, the minimum rate will only be one per dwelling and no longer two (as was previously proposed for anything more than a 1 bedroom unit). It’s also a step in the right direction to see that for two bedroom units in the Mixed Housing Suburban Zone, the minimums parking requirement has been reduced from two spaces to one. Often two bedroom places are occupied by households unlikely to even own two cars (could be a single parent, a young couple, a retiree etc.) so forcing two parking spaces per unit would be really stupid. Furthermore, forcing two parking spaces per unit in zones where a variety of building typologies are anticipated (terraced housing etc.) is likely to lead to some pretty ugly urban outcomes – as Patrick illustrated a few months ago:
I don’t really think that this is the kind of building type the Unitary Plan is trying to achieve.
Of course the changes haven’t been perfect. I suspect imposing any minimum in the Mixed Housing Urban zone as well as retaining a minimum of two spaces per unit for larger houses in the Mixed Housing Suburban zone probably generates much more economic cost than it generates benefit. Also it seems that parking minimums have been reintroduced in a few outer centres like Warkworth and Helensville – which is pretty strange as their main streets tend not to have individual off-street parking at the moment.
This is a timely issue as Councillor Cameron Brewer has put forward an amendment to be discussed today to do the exact opposite. He is proposing not only increasing the minimums in both the mixed housing zones back to the level in the original plan but is wanting the same levels applied in the the terraced house and apartment zone.
“That in the Townhouse And Apartment Building Zone, there be a minimum parking requirement of at least one car-park per dwelling of two or more bedrooms, and in both the Mixed Housing Urban and Suburban zones there be a minimum of one park for studios and I bedrooms as is proposed, and at least two car-parks as a minimum for any new dwelling two bedrooms or more (not three bedrooms as is proposed) to help mitigate increasing car numbers and on-street parking problems.”
What is interesting is earlier in the day before he proposed this amendment he asked about the impacts the proposed parking rules would have on on-street parking. He wanted to know what Auckland Transport’s thoughts were and he was told that not only do AT not have an issue with what is proposed but that the fully support it. So despite being told that issues with on-street parking can be managed and won’t be a problem, he still goes and proposes an amendment trying to do the opposite. Why is it that the Councillors who claim to advocate for property rights reducing red tape and leaving as much as possible to the private sector to manage are the ones that then go and try and do the opposite by putting in place restrictive rules like height limits and MPRs that act to distort the market and prevent it from working properly.
Hopefully not only will Brewers amendment be voted down but an enlightened Councillor put up an amendment to remove parking minimums from the Mixed Housing zones entirely, to ensure that we can achieve good quality developments and affordable housing in this zone.
Update: Cameron Brewers amendment was defeated emphatically with only him, Sharon Stewart and John Walker supporting the proposal.
Michael Goudie proposed his own amendment to reduce them further but sadly that was also lost – but by a closer margin 7-10