Detaching the Family Car from Single-Family Housing

As parking reform takes to multi-family housing, the detached single family home has largely escaped discussion. Should it? Seattle (of course) is taking the lead. Also, is all of Minneapolis ready to eliminate parking minimums along transit lines?

July 14, 2015, 8:00 AM PDT

By Irvin Dawid

Streetsblog's managing editor Brad Aaron addresses two innovative parking reforms proposed in two progressive cities. Seattle considers doing away with the requirement of driveways and garages for single family housing while north Minneapolis debates whether it should be exempted from the proposed ordinance to eliminate parking minimums for multifamily housing developments served by high-frequency bus and rail lines.

As posted here July 8, a Seattle citizens committee has recommended "replacing single-family zoning with a 'lower density residential zone'." "That’s not all," writes Aaron. "The [committee's] draft questions the necessity of a parking spot for every single-family home." The draft is excerpted in a piece by Erica C. Barnett in the Seattle Transit Blog.

Requiring one off-street parking space for every single family home is an artifact of an earlier era and is not a necessary or effective requirement. The space occupied by an off-street garage or parking space could be used instead to accommodate space for housing, including an accessory dwelling unit. 

Last month a post here spotlighted a "proposal (that) would eliminate all minimum off-street parking requirements for residential developments very close to high-frequency transit stops." "However, City Council President Barb Johnson wants to exclude neighborhoods in north Minneapolis from the parking reforms," writes Aaron.

The controversy is not unlike those seen elsewhere - some focus on the neighborhood as it is now; others look at what it could be with if restrictions were relaxed.

Resident Jeff Skrenes makes the case for the exclusion in his blog, North by Northside.

  • (L)et's talk about those high-frequency bus routes.  As a sole factor in contributing to the ordinance, that metric doesn't do north Minneapolis justice.  The question that should come up for anyone who has used public transit on the northside is, "Where do those buses GO?"  
  • North Minneapolis doesn't have the same bike amenities as the rest of the city.  We are not a dense, walkable community (yet) that allows residents to meet daily needs on foot, bike, or transit.  Until those inequities are addressed, the wholesale removal of parking requirements does a disservice to those who would live in such housing.

Making the case for inclusion is housing advocate and Camden neighborhood resident Kris Brogan in

  • North Minneapolis, particularly Camden, needs multi-family development. Being exempt from the parking ordinance–increasing development costs by hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars–will keep developers from considering Camden.
  • Let’s be very clear here: if we don’t create more multi-family housing options with greater density, increasing the population along our transit corridors, we will not get those improved transportation option.

Since our last post on the controversial ordinance by Council Member Lisa Bender"(t)he measure cleared the city’s planning commission on a narrow 4-3 vote (on June 15, agenda item #7), presaging what may be the largest test yet of the new council’s willingness to challenge long-standing auto-centric policies," writes Eric Roper of the Star Tribune. Arguments to exempt the northside did not prevail.

Sunday, July 12, 2015 in Streetsblog Network

Indian Trail, North Carolina

Four ‘Low-Hanging Fruit’ Zoning Reforms

An excerpt from the latest book on zoning argues for four approaches to reform that can immediately improve land use regulation in the United States.

June 26, 2022 - M. Nolan Gray

Car Traffic

San Francisco Just Ended Single-Family Zoning

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted to Tuesday to eliminate single-family zoning, but pro-development advocates say additional changes are needed to unleash a wave of construction.

June 29, 2022 - San Francisco Chronicle


U.S. Rental Market Crosses a New Threshold of Affordability

In a first for the country's rental market, most U.S. apartments are asking for more than $2,000 to rent, according to data recently published by Redfin.

June 21, 2022 - Redfin

New Jersey Power Plant

Supreme Court Guts the U.S. EPA’s Ability to Limit Carbon Emissions

The consequences of this ruling have long been foretold. With the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency now officially barred from the fight against climate change, Congress will have to act to reduce carbon emissions.

June 30 - Yahoo News

Central Los Angeles

California Approves Revised Los Angeles Housing Element

State officials officially approved the city’s housing plan, which was initially rejected for not doing enough to enhance housing equity.

June 30 - Urbanize LA

A fly fisher casts on a fog-covered river.

Lawsuit Could Open Public Access to Colorado Rivers

Colorado is one of few U.S. states that has decided that private property owners supersede the public when it comes to access to rivers and streams.

June 30 - High Country News

New Updates on The Edge

HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research

International Real Estate Strategies and Deal Negotiation

Harvard Graduate School of Design Executive Education

Affordable Housing: Principles for Changing Domestic and Global Markets

Harvard Graduate School of Design Executive Education

Urban Design for Planners 1: Software Tools

This six-course series explores essential urban design concepts using open source software and equips planners with the tools they need to participate fully in the urban design process.

Hand Drawing Master Plans

This course aims to provide an introduction into Urban Design Sketching focused on how to hand draw master plans using a mix of colored markers.