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Current Parking Minimums put the brakes on garden suites - It's Time to Get Rid of Them

So you want to build a garden suite…

You start getting excited about different designs, you begin imagining what it’ll be like to live in a garden suite, how nice it’ll be to have family close, or some additional rental income…until you realize that Edmonton has parking minimums.

After doing some more digging, you realize that you’re required to provide two parking stalls on your lot – one for the main house and one for the garden suite. All of a sudden, your dream of having a 2 or 3 bedroom suite for your family has collapsed. Your intentions to rent to students who don’t even own cars has been squashed. Your single storey, fully accessible, ageing-in-place suite must now be two stories, because that’s the only way you’ll be able to meet the parking requirements. All because of parking minimums.

Here are some example garden suites that can be challenging to build in Edmonton because of parking minimums.

Photo: Smallworks.

Photos (left to right): Smallworks, Lanefab, Lanefab.

In most cases, Edmonton’s parking minimums are forcing homeowners to sacrifice living space for people for ‘living space’ for cars. Most homeowners are left having to build a two-car garage in their suite with 50m2 (538 square feet) of living space on the second storey, which is really only enough for a one-bedroom suite or studio. As of 2017, zero children lived in garden suites for this reason.

More often than not, you'll see garden suites like this in Edmonton because of parking minimums.

Not only do parking minimums create challenges for family-friendly garden suites, single storey garden suites, and creative designs, but parking minimums place a huge financial burden on homeowners. Requiring a minimum number of parking stalls represents an overreach of government regulation that incurs $30,000 - $40,000 cost on homeowners, many of whom would choose not to build parking for reasons of personal preference, or their intended rental market. Learn more about the costs of parking minimums here.

Opportunity costs must also be considered as rentable/liveable space is displaced for low-value parking. Once these projects are developed, they are effectively locked into a built form that is dominated by the car. Oftentimes, with garden suites, the human occupants intended for the suite have less space than the cars. At YEGarden Suites, we have spoken with many homeowners who have decided not to build because of parking minimums. We have even met couples who are bike commuters and don’t own cars who have been forced to spend money on including a garage in the suite because of parking minimums.

In our most recent YEGarden Suites webinar series (June 16-18, 2020), we polled respondents (n=200) on how many parking stalls they would like to build in their suite, 20% of respondents indicating they would build 0 stalls, 40% said 1 stall, 29% said 2, 10% said 3, and 4% said 4+ stalls. Note the diversity of parking needs expressed by these potential garden suite owners.

On June 23rd, Edmonton City Council will be voting on the removal of parking minimums city-wide. We strongly encourage council to vote “yes”. We know of a considerable number of homeowners waiting for this change so that they may move forward on their own projects.

It is worth noting that nearly 80% of respondents intend to build some amount of parking with their garden suite. There is and will continue to be demand for parking. What is being debated on June 23rd is whether it is fair to demand that all property owners in Edmonton conform to an arbitrary parking regulation put in place 50 years that reinforces costly auto-centric development. Is it fair that our City speaks of building in a more sustainable, healthy and compact manner, while simultaneously demanding that people spend significant amounts of money reserving their living space for cars?

Removing parking minimums is a market-based approach that would give Edmontonians the freedom to choose how many parking stalls are right for them based on their needs.

To show support for the removal of parking minimums, check out these resources and our template letter to send to your councillor.

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