Thursday, November 2, 2023


Austin, Tex., has joined the growing ranks of American cities that have eliminated parking mandates from their land development codes.

At their Thursday, Nov. 2, meeting, the Austin City Council voted TKTK to remove minimum parking requirements for new developments, including residential and commercial. The action fulfills a resolution Council Member Zo Qadri brought forward in May directing City staff to excise municipal parking mandates from the code while preserving requirements for accessible spaces.

“A city like Austin that has adopted progressive mobility, affordability, and climate goals should not be in the business of requiring an arbitrary amount of car storage in every new development,” Council Member Qadri said. “As we continue to make historic investments in transit, bike lanes, urban trails, and sidewalks, we are creating a new mobility paradigm that will let the market and individuals decide what transportation options are best for each new project, while also ensuring that those developments remain accessible to people with disabilities.”

The cost of providing surface parking can reach up to $10,000 per space while structured parking can approach $60,000 per space. Those costs are ultimately passed along to future buyers and renters, adding fuel to the fire of Austin’s ongoing affordability challenges.

Recent studies show that parking reforms in other cities have led to new housing opportunities. According to the data, more than half of the new homes built in Seattle and Buffalo following those cities’ respective reforms would have been illegal to build prior to the changes.

“Austin should become a walkable, 10-minute city. By eliminating parking requirements, we can encourage housing construction, reduce development costs, and bring Austin closer to a more connected, people-centered city,” said Council Member Vanessa Fuentes, an original co-sponsor of the May resolution directing staff to amend the code. “I'm proud to support this initiative and applaud our council's commitment to forward-thinking infrastructure.”

Council’s action promotes the efficient use of urban space, enabling the development of more parks, green areas, and affordable housing options. By reducing the emphasis on parking facilities, developers can allocate resources to create innovative, community-oriented spaces that enhance the overall urban experience.

While drafting the code amendments, Austin Transportation and Public Works Department (TPW) staff met and worked with Americans Disabled for Attendant Programs Today (ADAPT) of Texas to ensure that the accessible space requirements are maintained and strengthened where appropriate.

“We know that for most single-family infill projects, parking is still a big selling point, but a market-based approach is the way to right-size what is needed to reduce barriers to small business growth and larger housing projects,” said Council Member Leslie Pool, also an original co-sponsor of the May resolution. “I’m also very grateful for the role ADAPT played here to guarantee access to parking for people with physical disabilities.“

In 2019, City Council adopted the Austin Strategic Mobility Plan, which set a goal of reducing the share of citywide commutes by single-occupant vehicles to 50-percent by 2039. In 2020, Austin’s voters signaled their support for that progressive goal by approving a multi-billion-dollar light rail construction plan as well as a $460 million investment in bike lanes, urban trails, and sidewalks.

Currently, the regional, auto-based transportation accounts for the largest segment of carbon emissions in Travis County. The Council-adopted Climate Equity Plan sets a goal for Austin to reach net-zero community-wide greenhouse gas emissions by 2040.

“Eliminating minimum parking requirements will allow a greater variety of housing options for Austinites, including missing middle housing,” said Mayor Pro Tem Paige Ellis, chair of the Council’s Mobility Committee and original co-sponsor of Qadri’s May resolution. “This code amendment is an important step to encourage walkability, bikeability, and access to public transit, all of which strengthen quality of life, help protect our environment, and make our community more resilient.”

The move to eliminate parking mandates in Austin received broad support from grassroots activists as well as the business community. Cooper Drenner, chair of the Real Estate Council of Austin, pointed out that eliminating mandates does not equate to eliminating existing parking spaces, nor will it lead to a sudden burst in un-parked projects.

“We are excited that this Council has recognized that overbuilding parking is bad for affordability, for transit, for the environment, and for livability in Austin,” said Drenner. “Parking won’t disappear overnight, but this ordinance will allow for the type of incremental change that will help us build more attainably-priced housing for Austinites. We are excited to use this regulatory change to be part of the solution for affordability.”

“The elimination of parking mandates is a critical tool in the suite of reforms this Council has initiated to tackle Austin’s affordability crisis,” said Zach Faddis, board president of AURA, an all-volunteer urbanist group focused on improving local land use and transportation. “This ordinance will put America’s tenth largest city at the top of the list of communities committed to housing abundance and curbing climate change.”