Putting the car space into play

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 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) and the “cool, little capital” of Wellington ($19). Pedal Power wants more money for active travel and this may be a way to get it.

While the property industry is generally supportive there is 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 challenge of housing affordability, a parking offset fund may help tick a lot of boxes.