TORONTO – When Barbara Lawlor first joined Baker Real Estate, a Toronto firm that markets and sells new condo developments, over two decades ago, selling a condo unit without an accompanying parking spot was a Herculean feat.
Today, only about a quarter of Baker’s clients are looking to buy parking spots.
“It’s an enormous shift in the buyer’s attitude,” says Lawlor, who is now Baker’s president. “People don’t want parking as much as they used to.”
Parking spots are falling out of favour with many condo buyers, thanks to the proliferation of car-sharing services and a greater emphasis on transit and walkability by city dwellers.
“If you’re on a really good transit route, you would certainly think twice about whether you need to buy a parking space,” Lawlor says, noting that a parking spot in a downtown Toronto development can cost around $50,000.
Louie Santaguida, president and chief executive of Stanton Renaissance, had planned to build up to four levels of underground parking at his On The GO Mimico project, a condo development under construction in the west part of Toronto.
However, Santaguida says most buyers snatching up the units pre-construction aren’t keen to shell out for parking, given that one of the building’s selling points is that it’s situated right next to a GO Train station that can transport residents downtown in minutes.
Santaguida is planning to apply to the city to have the building’s parking requirement reduced.
“We’re hearing more and more about developments that are coming up along good transit nodes that are actually asking for leniency around no parking, or minimal parking,” he said.
“The trend is moving away from vehicle ownership, especially in urban centres like downtown Hamilton, downtown Montreal, downtown Toronto and downtown Vancouver. Because there’s adequate infrastructure to get you where you need to go on a timely basis and quite frankly, in most cases, sooner than you can using a vehicle.”
Vancouver developer Jon Stovell, president of Reliance Properties, says the city of Vancouver has been encouraging developers to reduce the amount of parking that they build, in order to reduce traffic congestion and encourage other forms of transportation including walking, biking and public transit.
“The parking ratios have been going down steadily for a long time, and they’re getting to some really low levels now,” Stovell said, nothing that developers used to build up to two parking spots per unit. Now, many are only building one parking stall for every two condo units.
In Toronto, Tribute Communities has erected a 42-storey condo tower with no permanent resident parking — just nine spots reserved for a car-share service. Knightsbridge Homes is proposing a similar development in Calgary.
Most municipal governments are coming to terms with the change and relaxing parking minimums, but some developers have faced resistance.
Santaguida’s planned 30-storey condo project, rising out of the historic James Street Baptist Church, stirred up controversy, partly on account of not having a parking spot available for each unit.
The developer was challenged by trying to build an underground garage without disturbing the foundations of the former church.
After some deliberation, the city agreed to a proposal that will see Stanton Renaissance build 122 parking spots for the building’s 259 units — but the decision has faced some criticism.
“Some people are resistant to any type of change,” Santaguida said. “But you can only buck a trend for so long.”