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The Province: Vancouver preparing to zone for parking-free condo towers

Condo towers without parking stalls would be aimed at young professionals who choose to live car-free


Vancouver is moving toward zoning that would allow condo towers to be built without parking stalls, planners say.The move would allow developments similar to an existing condo in Toronto and a proposed one in Calgary, in buildings pitched at young professionals who increasingly tend to live car-free.

Vancouver has minimum parking requirements for residential buildings, but city staff are “exploring (no-car condo) opportunities in line with what Calgary is looking at,” a spokeswoman said Thursday.

The new Transportation 2040 plan adopted by council provides guidance to eliminate parking requirements downtown and near rapid transit stations, but gives no timeline on when the changes will be considered.

“I’d love to see more parking-free buildings,” Brent Toderian, Vancouver’s former head planner, told The Province.

“Where to build them, though, is all about the neighbourhood. They wouldn’t work just anywhere — they need walking, biking and transit to be inviting options.”

Tsur Somerville, director of UBC’s Centre for Urban Economics and Real Estate, said that with Vancouver council’s “greenest-city” goals he would have expected the parking minimums to be eliminated already.

“Certainly evidence in the U.S. is that among millennials, car ownership and driver’s registration is way down,” Somerville said.

“I think there is a lot to suggest that there is a group of young people, that cars are just not part of the lifestyle they are thinking of.”

Removing underground parking can slice about $40,000 off the price of a unit, which would help Vancouver tackle its housing affordability problem, Somerville said.

One risk to building car-free condos is that units could be seen as more difficult to resell. Investors who are interested in “liquidity” — the ability to rapidly sell a unit — might not be as interested in a no-parking-stall unit, Somerville said.

Michael Geller, a Vancouver developer and architect, said developers increasingly are seeing parking-stall and non-parking-stall buyers as distinct markets.

“Historically, developers have always sold condos with parking spaces, but we are now starting to sell the spaces separately,” he said.

“My line for the last 20 years has been, we should take all our minimum standards for parking, and turn that overnight into maximum standards.”

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