Parking offset ticks boxes

When a car space can add an extra $30,000 to the cost of an apartment, not everyone puts secure parking on top of their house-hunting wish list.

A recent survey of apartment renters – admittedly in Sydney – found that the single most important feature they were looking for was not parking or swimming pools, gardens or views, but a balcony. In fact, only half of those surveyed rated secure parking as a ‘must have’. 

And this is why Chief Minister Andrew Barr’s recent promise to establish a parking offset policy could be a good idea.

The policy, which would enable developers to make a payment to the ACT Government instead of providing a prescribed number of car spaces, may improve housing choice and put downward pressure on house prices.

The Chief Minister has promised to use the funds collected to construct separate structured car parking and to invest in sustainable travel initiatives, such as better public transport and active travel facilities.

The scheme, which would be introduced next year, would probably work best within our inner urban areas such as Braddon and the Kingston Foreshore, where space is at a premium and where flexibility in design can make a big difference to cost.

Such a move would also be good news for Canberra cyclists. Accordingly to Pedal Power Canberra’s $5.79 per capita spending on cycling infrastructure is well below cycling cities such as Amsterdam (around $40 per capita) and the ‘cool little capital’ of Wellington ($19 per capita). Pedal Power wants more money for active travel – and this may be a way to get it.

While the property industry is generally supportive of the proposed policy, we do have one caveat: the money raised from the scheme must not disappear into the black hole of ‘consolidated revenue’.  Funds from the offset must be used to boost public parking and active transport in the relevant community.

As we look for incentives to reduce car use in Canberra, boost public transport and encourage healthy, active living, while also addressing the serious challenge of housing affordability, a parking offset fund may help us tick a lot of boxes.

Catherine Carter is ACT Executive Director of the Property Council of Australia