City staff are recommending that zoning laws be amended so that a minimum number of parking spaces no longer have to be constructed as part of new residential developments.

A report that will go before the city’s planning and housing committee on Thursday recommends that parking minimums for new developments be scrapped city-wide “with the exception of maintaining minimum requirements for visitor parking and accessible parking.”

In the report, staff argue that removing the requirement for a minimum number of parking spaces to be constructed alongside new developments will ultimately “slow the growth in automobile use and resultant emissions,” while also helping to address the eroding housing affordability in the city.

In fact the report cites data which suggests the average cost of constructing a new parking space as part of a development is $48,000 to $160,000.

It also says that in Toronto the minimum standards for parking spaces mean that each space take up at least 236 square feet of space, or about half the space needed for many one-bedroom units.

“The cost of constructing and maintaining parking is significant; minimum parking requirements limits households’ ability to avoid those costs,” the report notes. “Further, minimum parking requirements may result in households in multi-unit residential buildings who do not own automobiles subsidizing the cost of parking for other residents of the building who do. This is inequitable, as higher-income households are more likely to own automobiles.”

Right now the minimum amount of parking spaces required as part of a new development varies depending on the type and number of units, as well as the location.

But in downtown Toronto the zoning code currently requires that developers provide at least 0.3 parking spots for each bachelor unit, 0.5 parking spaces for each one-bedroom unit, 0.8 parking spaces for each two-bedroom unit and one parking space for every unit with three or more bedrooms.

Staff say that lifting those requirements “is not expected to have a significant impact on the amount of parking provided” in new buildings as developers have already been regularly applying for and receiving variances to build fewer parking spaces than currently required under the zoning bylaw.

But they do say that it “will allow households without automobiles to more easily avoid the direct and indirect costs of parking and improve housing affordability.”

“Updating the city’s parking standards to better manage auto dependency and achieve a better balance between building too much or too little parking ultimately contributes to building more sustainable and healthy communities,” the report states. “The city is facing several major challenges including a climate emergency; decreasing housing affordability; and increasing demand for mobility. While not sufficient on its own to overcome these challenges, more strategic, thoughtful management of the parking supply will contribute to addressing all of these challenges.”

According to the staff report, about 40 per cent of Toronto apartment households currently get by without a car. That number goes up to 52 per cent for households making between $15,000 and $40,000 a year.

The move to lift minimum parking space requirements is just one aspect of the report. Staff are also recommending that the city double the number of bicycle spaces required as part of new developments within the old City of Toronto’s boundaries.

The zoning changes still have to be approved by city council as a whole, even if they are adopted by members of the planning and housing committee.