On Wednesday, Vancouver City Council voted unanimously to remove minimum parking requirements for new real estate developments in the Broadway Plan and West End areas, joining a growing list of major metropolitan cities in North America that are keeping an eye out on the future.

Traditionally, minimum parking requirements are in place to ensure that enough parking is provided in buildings to accommodate their occupants, as well as to reduce on-street parking. However, as the City of Vancouver and the rest of the Metro Vancouver region increasingly focus on transit-oriented development, fewer people will be driving, and many parking spaces could go to waste.

Ahead of the decision on Wednesday, City staff said in a report to Council that the Broadway Plan and West End areas were "well-positioned" to have minimum parking requirements removed, as there is already an existing oversupply of off-street parking in those areas. On-street parking is well-regulated and can react to changing demands, and the areas are in dense, walkable communities that are served by public transit.

The change is the second phase of the City's reform of parking requirements, following the first phase in 2019, which saw minimum parking requirements eliminated for much of Downtown Vancouver. The changes do not affect bicycle parking, accessible parking, and visitor parking.

Eliminating minimum parking requirements comes with the added benefit of giving developers the flexibility to adjust how much parking they will provide in their buildings, which can potentially improve the efficiency of how the land is used and reduce the costs that are needed to build underground parking.

For residents, reducing the costs for developers can potentially translate to improved affordability. In strata buildings, as one example City staff raised, units without parking can potentially sell for $50,000 less than if a parking space was included. On the rental side, rental projects typically already provide less parking than strata projects, and eliminating minimum requirements can help make those projects more financially viable.

For developers, the cost to build each underground parking spot can range anywhere from $60,000 to $120,000 depending on size, layout, and soil conditions, City staff say, with underground parking — mechanical rooms, storage rooms, and loading areas included — sometimes exceeding 20% of a project's total construction cost.

In all cases, the changes enacted by Council affect minimum requirements, and developers can always opt to provide more than the minimum if they see fit.

The new changes will come into effect on January 1, 2024, and going forward, developers of projects in the aforementioned areas will need to submit a transportation demand management (TDM) plan as part of their rezoning applications. Much like other municipalities, such as Burnaby, TDM plans will have to outline how developers will manage the reduced amount of parking. Oftentimes, that includes providing additional bicycle facilities to encourage cycling, while in other cases it may be the provision of transit and/or car-share subsidies.

With the changes, Vancouver joins a list of cities that have removed minimum parking requirements including Edmonton, Toronto, New York City, and Portland, among others.

"Eliminating parking requirements for new builds is one of the key strategies we're taking to speed up the development process and build more homes faster," says Mayor Ken Sim. "This is a smart change and it will have a direct influence particularly on the affordability of non-market housing for low to middle-income families."

City staff will report back in 2024 with the next phase of parking reform, which is expected to include a framework for improving the regulation of on-street parking.