Apartment living survey suggests its time to park the idea of allocated car spaces?

Rethinking the way apartment car parks are allocated could better meet the needs of households, reduce the overflow of cars into surrounding streets and improve housing affordability for some. 

A third of apartments in Sydney, Melbourne and Perth have either too much or not enough car parking, according to a study by RMIT and University of Western Australia researchers published in the Journal of Transport Geography.

“Because parking’s allocated to individual apartments, it’s not always allocated correctly. Some people ended up having too much parking, and others have not enough,” lead author Chris de Gruyter tells Cosmos.

The study estimates the combined value of over-allocated and under-used car parking spaces across the three cities at $6 billion.

The problem of too much or too little parking arises because car spaces are usually allocated, or ‘bundled’ together into an apartment’s purchase or rental price.

The findings are significant, suggesting ‘unbundling’ car spaces from purchase or rental agreements could better meet residents needs, and reduce overflow into surrounding streets.

The research uses data from the High Life Study of 1,316 apartment residents across Melbourne, Perth and Sydney includes a series of questions about cars, parking needs and spaces allocated.

De Gruyter says the detail provided by the survey data is significant allowing researchers to look at the issue at an individual household level, rather than relying on aggregate geographic or census data.

The responses show about 66% of households had the right amount of allocated car parking to meet their needs, while 20% had too much and 14% too little.

For those households with too-much, ‘unbundling’ car parking spaces could potentially improve housing affordability. In the United States, bundled parking has been found to add 17% to the rental cost, or between $40,000 – 60,000 (AUD) to the unit cost, the study says. 

By separating the two – as some places in the US have done – car spaces can be more efficiently allocated.

“The idea is to unbundle, so when people purchase or rent an apartment, they can choose how many car parking spaces they want. Someone might want three, someone else may want zero. And therefore, it’s more in line with their needs, in terms of how many cars they own,” says De Gruyter.

In the Australian context there are few examples of unbundling parking from apartment housing.

US studies show unbundling car parking can reduce car ownership and increase public transport use.

De Gruyter says it also makes the costs more transparent, and this might encourage people to ask whether they need an additional car, or instead to opt for car sharing or alternative modes of transport. 

The survey shows larger apartments with more bedrooms were four- to five- times more likely to be oversupplied for parking spaces, De Gruyter says.

Families with children were also likely to be oversupplied for parking. “Probably because they are in larger apartments,” he adds.

People living within walking distance of car sharing were less likely to be undersupplied, suggesting car sharing access reduces the need for additional cars and helps to alleviate some of the some of the pressures people might otherwise have to park an additional cars on the street.

The results reflect other evidence and studies showing car sharing vehicles support reduced car ownership, De Gruyter says.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, those earning more than $100,000 per year were likely to be undersupplied, which De Gruyter speculates is due to owning more cars.

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