Why a Third of Private Garages Don’t House Cars

With curbside parking available for free in front of most American homes, residents with private garages often choose to utilize the space for household storage. Putting a price on street parking could change that.

May 5, 2022, 12:00 PM PDT

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction

Residential garage full of home storage

Joni Hanebutt / Residential garage

“The government constructs, maintains and distributes free car storage space along the curb in front of almost every house,” asserts Catie Gould, and because of this readily available parking space in single-family neighborhoods, many Americans park their cars on the street and use their garages for other purposes. 

“A survey of detached homeowners in Sacramento, California, published in February, showed that when there isn’t space enough for both storing a car and household items, the cars are the items that end up moving elsewhere. The survey found that 37 percent of homeowners didn’t store a single car in their garage.” Surveys from other cities show similar results. A long-range UCLA study “found that 3 of 4 households had too much stuff in their garage to park a car.”

According to Gould, “When storing a car on the curb is free, a garage isn’t necessarily a garage: it’s a great big walk-in closet.” So, Gould asks, “When there is so much evidence that people don’t reliably use private parking spaces to store their cars, why does nearly every city still require them to be built?” Gould explains that these requirements can have a negative impact on housing affordability. “Mandates for off-street parking spaces raise housing costs and prevent housing from being built in the first place.”

Using an example from Vancouver, British Columbia, Gould argues that cities should price curb spaces to incentivize residents to park in their own garages or driveways and free up curbside space for public parking or other uses.

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