January 18, 2022

Greenlighting New Toronto Parking Space Requirement Policy Was Right Move

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by Richard Lyall on 07 Jan 2022

The decision by Toronto city council to remove parking minimum requirements for new residential developments is a step in the right direction.

After all, it made no sense to force developers to build – and homebuyers to pay for – underground parking spaces that aren’t being used.

A survey done by RESCON showed that an average of 33 per cent of parking stalls were left unsold prior to projects being started. In one case, a builder had 90 per cent of parking still available for sale as a building neared construction.

Building underground parking in Toronto drives up the price of new housing developments because the cost is eventually passed on to unit buyers and affects housing affordability. Condos end up being more expensive.

Three years ago, it cost developers between $80,000 to $100,000 to construct each below-grade parking stall. Today, it is significantly higher. In certain new residential projects, the cost was $165,000.

Developers often have to excavate several floors underground before they even start to erect a residential development. The deeper in the ground you go, the more expensive it gets to build parking spaces.

Deep multi-level underground parking structures necessitated by minimum parking requirements also incur groundwater challenges as well which can burden aging sewer infrastructure.

Vast quantities of soil also have to be excavated and disposed of at another location, which is another problem unto itself.

The city’s parking requirements were long overdue for a redo as they harkened back to 2013. Today, many people don’t own a car, so mandating developers to build parking spaces that are not needed only prolonged construction timelines and made homebuyers wait longer for their units.

Given the changing trends in car ownership, vehicle usage, rideshare options, growing transit networks, increased cycling infrastructure and, more recently, remote work amongst Torontonians, the move to parking maximums from minimums is welcomed and supported by RESCON.

At a recent meeting, Toronto council voted to remove most requirements for new residential developments to provide a minimum number of parking spaces and instead put maximums on the number. In essence, the new parking standard now better reflects the changing habits of urban dwellers who are increasingly turning to driving alternatives.

Minimum parking requirements no longer made any sense. It merely led to more parking spaces than necessary. Introducing maximums, however, dovetails with the city’s effort to reduce emissions.

RESCON got involved in the issue because there seems to be no point in forcing developers to build a minimum number of parking spots when they’re going to be left vacant. We wrote a letter in support of recommendations that were made by the planning staff to remove the parking minimums.

The decision to remove the parking minimums is forward-thinking. With a housing crisis developing, the city must do everything it can to move projects along instead of putting up roadblocks.

The new policy strikes a balance between too much and too little parking. Developers will no longer be required to build parking spaces that aren’t necessary and that home buyers don't want.

Now that the parking requirements issue has been resolved, Toronto Water should be encouraged to change its policy regarding foundation drainage. The policy, which came into effect Jan. 1, means that long-term discharge of foundation drains to the city’s sanitary sewer system will no longer be permitted.

It’s a policy that proceeded without council approval. It was also put in place just months after informing the building industry.

Foundation drainage is normally collected from the aquifer and discharged to the city’s storm or combined sewer system. However, developers are now required to manage foundation drainage on site.

Developers will have to install membranes around underground levels of a building to collect the drainage which, of course, will only add to costs for homebuyers. The drainage policy should be rescinded.

Richard Lyall, president of RESCON, has represented the building industry in Ontario since 1991. Contact him at media@rescon.com