Rutgers report: Too much required parking at multifamily sites is bad for rents — and environment

Latest White Paper from Rutgers Center for Real Estate shows dramatic cost impact of unnecessarily high parking space requirements

Pulling into a new multifamily parking lot and finding plenty of available parking is becoming a more common occurrence. And, while it may seem like an ideal situation, it’s not.

Too many mandatory parking spots is bad for residents (who have to pay increased costs), bad for the environment (concrete has a carbon problem) — and bad for the creation of additional affordable and workforce housing New Jersey so desperately needs (units are too expensive to build).

A new White Paper from the Rutgers Center for Real Estate focused on parking in multifamily residential communities spells this out. (Click here to read the paper.)

The result of several months of examination after analyzing data obtained from over 175 properties and approximately 28,000 operating multifamily rental units in the state, the report concludes that mandatory rules required by the Residential Site Improvement Standards are outdated — and that they may not reflect a society that relies on ride-sharing and/or mass transit more than ever.

The report, entitled “How Much Is Enough? Parking Usage in New Jersey Rental Units,” showed that, on average, low and midrise apartment buildings in New Jersey utilize approximately 0.56 parking spaces less than as required by RSIS, with high-rise communities utilizing approximately 0.32 parking spaces less than as required by RSIS.

Deb Tantleff, the founding principal of TANTUM Real Estate and one of the authors of the paper, said the results of the objective research provide conclusive and compelling data that can and should be utilized by both the public and private sector.

“A thoughtful and intentional approach to reduce parking requirements will benefit municipalities, planners, developers/operators and, importantly, the end user while creating a pathway to address larger affordability challenges that we face as a state and country,” she said.

Tantleff prepared the paper along with Morris Davis (the head of the Rutgers Center for Real Estate), Ron Ladell (the head of AvalonBay in New Jersey) and Facundo Luna (a Ph.D. student at Rutgers University).

The paper alludes to larger national initiatives that municipalities across the country are undertaking with respect to parking in an attempt to address larger housing affordability issues as well as environmental impacts resulting from building unnecessary parking.

It also spelled out the increased costs.

Using a 145-unit garden apartment and a 400-unit high-rise building that follow the data from the research, the paper shows how quickly the added costs add up.

The garden apartment requires 102 more spaces than are necessary. The high-rise requires 75 more spaces than is necessary.

If a parking spot costs $27,900 to build — and to the extent that higher construction costs must be accompanied by higher rents — the paper finds the RSIS overrequirement of parking increases construction costs by approximately $13,950 per unit for every unit built.

RCRE White Papers

This is the second compelling White Paper issued by the Rutgers Center for Real Estate. The first, entitled, “School-Age Children in Rental Units in New Jersey: Results from a Survey of Developers and Property Managers,” is now a widely accepted paper that speaks to the number of school-age children generated by new multifamily housing developments.

Read that White Paper here.

The White Paper, the group said, is intended to provide an academic and neutral analysis of common trends that address the viability of new developments and provides an objective source to produce key industry relevant research that can provide a pathway for thoughtful land use policy while also addressing common topics that municipalities face when reviewing their master plan initiatives.

The authors wrote: “Another way of stating the same observation, is that a development project that overbuilds 100 parking spaces results in an additional $2,790,000 cost that, instead of being used to fund other improvements, is borne solely by the end-user.”

The impact on the environment could be just as bad, the authors wrote.

“The environmental impact of parking surfaces is a growing concern, as parking contributes to urban heat islands and altered stormwater runoff, both of which exacerbate climate challenges,” they wrote. “Indoor parking, often constructed with concrete, is a significant source of carbon dioxide emissions, with up to 12% of New Jersey’s emissions attributed to the concrete industry.”

The paper concludes that a reduction in parking requirements will effectively lower rents, providing a pathway to addressing housing affordability — and that the mandatory parking rules must be reexamined.

The group said, thankfully, some municipalities already are doing so.

“In response to all these factors — affordability goals, environmental sustainability and evolving transportation trends — numerous municipalities across the country are rethinking the appropriate amount of parking, and are proactively implementing the reduction and, in some instances, even the elimination of minimum parking requirements.”


METHODOLOGY: The authors said they crafted a user-friendly survey that was issued to a vast array of developers, property owners and managers, which was completed by property managers responsible for individual communities.

The survey results provided detailed information, including the breakdown of unit mix (i.e., studio, 1-, 2- and 3-bedrooms), the amount of on-site parking available at the community and confirmed the amount of on-site parking spaces actually utilized based on the occupancy of the asset. Other qualifying variables were included in the survey such as proximity to mass transit and rental rates.

As part of the analysis, the RCRE further examined data from a smaller subsect of survey responses that provided more specific information, including the actual assignment of parking spaces to specific unit types.

Additionally, data from the 2021 5-Year American Community Survey was analyzed so that, collectively, the RCRE was able to propose new parking requirements commensurate with specific unit types.