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How Parking Reform Might Actually Create Affordable Housing

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This week, New York Times archicritic Michael Kimmelman takes on the 9 x 18 project, the brainchild of Institute For Public Architecture fellows Miriam Peterson, Sagi Golan and Nathan Rich that seeks to tackle BdB's ambitious affordable housing program by introducing parking reform. How does it work? The project proposes leveraging the parking spaces—which are nine feet by 18 feet, get it?—that are instituted by outmoded zoning regulations and are bountiful at public housing sights to create "something more ambitious, something that encourages a mix of housing in active neighborhoods with accessible transit, public services and lively streets." Kimmelman is pro-project, and here are a few reasons why, in his own words.

1) On why 9 x 18 could be the future, "The '9 x 18' proposal capitalizes on an outdated and onerous zoning mandate that requires private developers to build parking spaces for new apartments in certain parts of the city. The regulation clashes with Vision Zero, the mayor's new pedestrian safety initiative. It's also bad for traffic and the environment. And it forces developers to spend what a study by the Furman Center at New York University estimates is up to $50,000 per parking space, money inevitably charged to consumers, increasing housing costs ... [T]he "9 x 18" plan turns the zoning requirement into a kind of commodity."

2) On the many ways it works, "The plan would also give developers the option of paying into a fund to reduce their parking requirement further. The fund would go toward constructing mixed-use parking structures on housing authority lots: covered garages with shops and services at street level, play areas for children at the top, which consolidates parking for the neighborhood and frees up space on authority lots for more development."

3) On the economy of space, "If you add up all the street-level parking spaces on housing authority lots around town, you get more than 20.3 million square feet, well over half the size of Central Park." Side note: whoa.

4) On 9 x 18's challenges, "Developers theoretically could make money from the shops and market-rate apartments, and they would pay less into the parking garage fund than the parking mandate now costs them. That said, it's one thing to propose adding retail and some market-rate apartments on a lot in Manhattan, another in less affluent boroughs ... Aside from getting these numbers to balance out, the other hurdle to realizing the architects' plan is ensuring housing authority tenants get a fair shake."

5) Summarizing the project's goals, "Prod developers to spend money not on parking but on subsidized housing and neighborhood improvements; promote equitable and diverse development in areas that could and should be denser; and involve the residents of subsidized projects."

6) The takeaway, "That suits the mayor's agenda. His administration wants to think big and work from the ground up, housing-wise. Time is wasting. By one estimate, the city has a net loss of 38,000 subsidized apartments every year, so even 200,000 in a decade would barely stem the decline. The '9 x 18' plan is rough, but a start."

And there you have it. There's more on 9 x 18 here, here, and here.
· Trading Parking Lots For Affordable Housing [NYT]
· 9 x 18 [official]
· This Is What Parking Reform Looks Like in 21st Century NYC [Curbed]