AUSTIN (KXAN) — Austin City Council voted 8-2 to eliminate minimum parking space requirements from the city’s land development code. The elimination applies to all new developments, including both residential and commercial ones.

Thursday’s agenda item follows earlier action from council back in May, which authorized beginning the process of stripping mandatory parking minimums from its overarching zoning requirements. That May action not only began efforts to remove off-street parking requirements, but also directs the city manager “to return with recommendations for developments proposing no on-site parking that allow for accessible parking spaces on-street, adjacent to or reasonably nearby the development and located on an accessible route,” per city documents.

Thursday’s item includes both a public hearing on the recommendation, as well as council’s consideration on the ordinance amendment. In city recommendation documents, officials said the amendment aligns with city efforts to improve housing affordability, as well as adheres to initiatives outlined in the Austin Strategic Mobility Plan, which includes the following perspective:

“Effective management of parking can improve mobility, safety, the environment, and
affordability. Parking management is closely tied to land use regulations and curb
management practices, and as such, they should both be written to encourage better parking
management. Land use regulations should be written to ensure new developments
accommodate different travel options, not just people in cars. Parking requirements should
focus on maximums instead of minimums, and parking spaces should be offered to buyers and
renters separately from rent or housing purchase, a practice known as ‘unbundling.’”

Austin Strategic Mobility Plan

In its recommendation, officials add parking spaces are costly to both construct and upkeep, adding there are more efficient land use opportunities available. The zoning code change proposals would include foregoing the minimum parking requirements — save for accessible spaces — as well as promote shared and off-site parking options among adjacent properties, along with supporting “walkable, mixed-use developments to lessen the need for parking.”

City documents cite construction costs up to $10,000 per surface lot space, as well as structure parking costs up to $60,000 per space to create.

An affordability impact statement conducted by the City of Austin’s Housing and Planning Department said the removal of parking minimums will help lower the costs of building housing, in turn allowing for developers to hit desired profit levels more readily while also yielding lower market rent prices.

Council members Alison Alter and Mackenzie Kelly voted no on this item, stating they thought the changes to the land code would have unintended consequences. Alter said she thinks the council needs to take a more granular approach to amending this part of the land code.