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In a Bold Move, Mexico City Prioritizes Affordable Housing Over Parking

Susan Bird - Care2
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August 8, 2017
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Multi-car parking garage (Thinkstock)

Mexico City just did something revolutionary. The city’s government took a bold step intended to boost the availability of affordable housing in the city. How? It dropped its parking requirement, or the minimum number of spaces that developers must include when they construct new apartments and office buildings.

Instead, Mexico City now limits the amount of parking that can be built — and developers who overbuild will be charged penalties for doing so. How exactly does that help people find housing?

Well, it’s a matter of mathematics. Less space taken up by parking means more space available for housing. Formerly, developers had to guarantee a certain amount of available parking for every project.

The requirement seemed to make sense at the time. Doesn’t everyone who lives or works in a building need a spot for his or her car?

Here’s the problem. All that space taken up by parking spots – especially in the middle of big cities — makes available space for housing shrink exponentially. The shortage of living space drives up the cost of housing in these areas, making it more and more unaffordable for anyone but upper-tier earners.

Office and apartment rent prices fund all that “free” parking, raising the cost of rent. What are people of more modest means supposed to do? Where do they live?

One U.S. study determined that requiring developers to include parking for new apartment spaces added 16 percent to the cost of living in those apartments. And in metro areas where many don’t need to own a car, that’s a ridiculous added expense.

Every renter ends up subsidizing the parking that’s used by only a handful of people. Nationally, according to the study, non-car owners pay an incredible $440 million to fund parking for others.

But what if they didn’t have to? Suddenly a lot of housing becomes affordable for a wider range of incomes.

Mexico City is the second most populous place in North America after New York City. A whopping 8.8 million people live there, so its traffic problems are legion. Heavy traffic causes congestion, air pollution and wear and tear on road surfaces.

Mexico City’s leaders decided that minimizing parking is the path forward to solving those nagging problems.

Read the rest at Care2


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