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Will less parking mean more housing in Cambridge?

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By letting the market decide how much parking is needed for the project, Azeem said: The idea is to encourage developers to make the most of their land. And by having fewer parking spaces (which can cost upwards of $100,000 per space), developers can save money and build more units, at least in theory leading to lower rents. There is a possibility.

It’s a popular initiative among city council members, and a final vote on the proposal is expected later this year.But the city’s planning commission signaled the opposite last month, reflecting the concerns of some residents who fear removing minimal off-street parking. Requirements make it even harder to find a spot On an already busy street.

“People will still have cars and park them in the neighborhood,” Planning Commission member Stephen Cohen said at a meeting last month. “And suddenly all the neighbors who are already struggling to park their cars will own more cars. [to contend with]”

“Real people will be compromised by this. Real people need cars.”

A section of Mass Avenue in front of Cambridge’s Crossware.
Jessica Rinaldi/Glovestaff

The Planning Commission does not have a formal say in zoning code changes decided by the City Council, but its members often vote on amendments, acting as a sort of signpost.

The bill should pass Cambridge City Council, which saw its population 12.6% increase over last 10 years Up to 118,000, according to census data, Will join A growing list of US cities have Abolition of parking minimum charges As a way to encourage more housing. Proponents at the forefront of these efforts generally argue that the United States is building too many parking spaces for the number of cars on the road, many of which are barely used. increase.

Cambridge doesn’t have many parking spaces these days, but housing developers estimate that between 25% and 60% of residents use cars. Citywide, about two-thirds of residents own a car, according to census data. 33,500 parking permits were issued this year allowing residents to park on the streets.

However, in some areas of the city, developers must build one new parking space for each new unit of housing under current zoning rules, but seek dispersion to reduce mandates. There is also

This means the city is building more parking lots than demand, said Alan Sudden, co-chair of the housing advocacy group. better cambridge.

“If we are serious about solving the housing crisis, we need to build more housing,” said Sadun. “And it is insane to imagine building tens of thousands of new off-street parking spaces for each of these new units.

Paul Ognibene, CEO of developer Urban Spaces, says he has found that building underground parking in a large residential building in Cambridge would cost about $150,000 per space. . Ultimately, these costs will lead to higher rents, he said.

Ognibene company plans to renovate former Catholic school and parsonage For Affordable Developments Without Parking Cleaning up in East Cambridge affordable residential overlays It was approved in 2020 to abolish parking minimums for affordable development and ease density restrictions. “It will do amazing things to the city,” he said, allowing developers to build parking lots to demand to be measured in future resident surveys.

“It makes a lot of sense to structure this and make the market work,” he said. “If you need parking as a developer, if the residents want it, build it.

The Sacred Heart Rectory at 49 6th Street in East Cambridge is the future location of a parking-free affordable housing development.David L. Ryan/Glovestaff

While housing advocates and developers generally agree that the proposal will bring down construction costs, some fear it could put affordable housing developers at a disadvantage.

Affordable housing overlays, according to Carl Nagy-Koechlin, executive director of the affordable housing development company, just a starthelped affordable developers compete in hard-to-find locations by enabling them to effectively build more homes for less. It was concerned that expanding to even higher levels could “take away a competitive advantage” from affordable projects.

Still, he broadly supported the proposal, saying that tweaking the overlay to give affordable developers more breaks could offset the losses caused by the proposed zoning changes. rice field.

Ultimately, if City Council goes ahead and removes parking minimums, advocates for a broader reassessment of how Cambridge’s existing car parks are used and when it’s appropriate to build more. will be the beginning of what you want.

Iram Farooq, the city’s assistant manager for community development, said the city is working on parking research and hopes it will spark a conversation about underutilized parking. 2019 report At peak times, 30% of parking spaces in Boston and 20 nearby cities were empty, according to a Metropolitan Area Planning Council study.

Councilor Mark McGovern said the debate over minimum parking spaces was inherently linked to Cambridge’s climate goals.

“This is not a policy that wants to reduce the number of people who want to own a car. This is really about housing,” said McGovern, who proposed zoning changes at Azeem. “But it speaks to our long-term goals. We need to have fewer cars on the road, and when we start pushing policies that reduce space or discourage the use of cars, we’re going to see those We are taking steps towards our goal.”

But even in Cambridge, a city known for its progressive politics, that would be difficult.

“I’m all for more housing,” said one woman at a Planning Commission meeting last month. “But not at the expense of parking space.”

To contact Andrew Brinker: [email protected]Follow him on Twitter. @Andrewn Brinker.

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