At last week’s Lowry Hill East Neighborhood Association Annual Meeting, one item caught my attention: apparently some (or all?) of the new apartment buildings in Uptown are charging people to rent parking stalls, and that is causing some frustration in the community.
A quick glance around the interwebs and it can be verified that at least Flux and Solhem are charging for its parking. Both have heated, underground parking and Flux charges $100 per month per stall and Solhem starts at $125 per month per stall.
To most who look for apartments in Uptown, this should come as no surprise. When I was looking to lease an apartment back in the early and mid-2000s, nearly every building with more than 4 units charged for parking. Lucky for me, I didn’t have a car and had I needed one, I wouldn’t have paid because I am good at parallel parking and don’t mind walking up to a block to park.
On to the frustration. The Chair of the Zoning and Planning Committee, Brian (good guy) was mentioning this bit of surprising news and said that Council Member Tuthill was working on a solution that may require these buildings (new apartment buildings?) to include the parking free with rent. [Edit: CM Tuthill has since said (in comments below) that this is incorrect and she has not suggested such a solution and that she and other council members on the Zoning & Planning Committee at the City are asking a few questions and that's it. I will openly admit that I should have asked the question first.]
Since this was third-hand information that I haven’t confirmed with CM Tuthill myself (though she was there and could have corrected Brian), I will suggest people not criticize her for alleged plans. Be my guest and provide feedback on the concept though.
So what do you think? Should new apartment buildings be required to provide renters free parking (if available)?
Since you may wonder where I stand on the issue, and of course acknowledging that I work for a developer though we don’t have any apartments in the Hennepin-Lake area but do have a public parking garage, I find the issue rather interesting. Below are a few comments:
- Developers, the City, and neighborhood groups often find themselves negotiating over how much parking will be provided at a project. So when the develop commits to 1 stall per unit, the underlying assumption is that it is included in the rent. Neighborhoods generally seem to want to minimize on-street parking impacts so they want those living in the building to park in the building.
- Developers ultimately are balancing construction costs, net operating income (income minus expenses), and debt costs. With underground parking usually costing $20,000 to $30,000 per stall, they want to minimize the number of stalls but want to build enough so they meet the market demand (re: have enough parking to fill it up and rent all the units). Renting a parking stall allows them to reduce the base rent costs and allocate them based on demand (some apts may want to stalls and other just one and others none).
- Including parking penalizes those who don’t own a car or who can’t afford to rent off-street parking. If the going rate is $100 per month per stall and you don’t own a car, you would be losing $1,200 annually if you were required to rent that stall and not fill it. While most of the new units getting built are luxury units with high price tags, it is still worth mentioning that not everyone can afford to pay $1,200 per year on parking.
- A principle and equitable dilemma is raised if the government requires some residents to have to pay for privately owned and managed parking and others not to simply based on the year of construction. On the opposite side, some in the community feel that there is a density dilemma, in which older, less-dense buildings become neighbors to newer, more-dense buildings that likely will put a higher degree of demand on the on-street parking supply unless there is ample off-street parking that those residents utilize. Others see parking as a market issue and prefer to have the market (not government) manage the supply.
- It isn’t just new buildings that charge for off-street parking in Uptown.
I generally think that no one should feel entitled to on-street parking stalls, especially in a dense community where many buildings have few, if any, parking stalls. However, I do recognize that if people move into an area and have an understanding that there is only a certain amount of change likely or allowed, that it may be a difficult and bitter pill to swallow that the on-street parking supply may get tighter. I prefer finding a middle ground, but I don’t agree with the concept of requiring someone to rent a parking stall (via having it included in rent) because it penalizes those with less income or without a car.
Instead, I think it is worth working with a willing property owner to see what sort of parking occupancy rates they accomplish (90% of stalls rented?) to see if there really are that many people flowing onto the streets. It would also help to validate parking requirement assumptions.