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Labor's car parking policy would drive up housing costs: industry

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South Australia’s property and development industries have warned that a push by state Labor to impose minimum car parking requirements on new residential developments would increase costs to homebuyers.

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Labor leader Peter Malinauskas today announced an intention to introduce a private members bill to mandate minimum off-street car parking spaces on all new housing developments.

Property Council SA’s executive director Daniel Gannon said the announcement was “a little bizarre” given the previous Labor Government had taken a different tack in its planning reforms.

“Former Minister John Rau and others were strong advocates of transit-oriented development, understanding the need to create compact, walkable, pedestrian-oriented, mixed-use communities centred around public transport routes,” he told InDaily.

“Medium-density developments like Bowden or around the Klemzig O-Bahn interchange are great examples of TODs, reducing the need for multiple off-street car parks due to their close proximity to public transport options.

“This feels like a proposal that is more focused on local ‘neighbourhood politics’ rather than sound policy, as championed by the former Labor Government.”

Gannon said the imposition of car parking requirements would make housing less affordable.

“Policy changes like this will apply upward pressure on house prices, therefore making it harder for first home buyers to buy into the market.”

The Urban Development Institute of Australia’s South Australian CEO, Pat Gerace, agreed that the mandatory minimum requirement would increase costs.

“The provision of car parking in developments does come at a cost and it’s important to consider affordability and the space you’re using for cars in that context,” he said.

However, he also warned against Labor picking out one aspect of the planning system for reform, without considering broader impacts.

Gerace said that the planning system as a whole was meant to create positive outcomes – like liveable and walkable neighbourhoods, for example – and making changes to one aspect of the system in isolation was risky.

He said individual developments also needed to be considered in context. An apartment block next to a train station, for example, would have different car parking needs from another kind of suburban development.

“What you can and can’t build in an area needs to have a contextual relationship with the services and amenities around it.”

Labor’s planning spokesman Tony Piccolo defended the proposed changes which would see the imposition of a minimum of two off-street carparks for dwellings of two or more bedrooms, and one off-street park for one-bedroom properties.

If on-site car parks could not be provided, the changes would require car parking spaces to be available “at a nearby off-street site”.

“Labor is proposing sensible reform which addresses a matter of significant community concern,” he said.

“We don’t want to see our local streets clogged with parked cars, yet this is increasingly becoming a reality in our city and suburbs. If a developer is building a three or four bedroom property, it is sensible and reasonable to ensure there is adequate off-street parking.

“Some councils are already changing these rules in an ad hoc way. This legislation ensures a uniform approach to deliver certainty to investors and residents.”

Planning Minister Stephan Knoll described Labor’s policy as a ” thought bubble to fix a mess they created”.

“The State Government has already moved to address this issue in areas and we are working to finalise a Campbelltown DPA which looks to increase the minimum allotment size and use that work to inform the new planning and design code,” he said.

“We will wait to see the detail of this proposal but at the moment this thought bubble raises more questions than it does provide solutions.”

Labor’s approach to planning during its 16 years in power had a strong focus on so-called transit-oriented developments, one of the stated benefits of which was a reduction in the need for car parking due to the location of new developments on public transport routes.

In its final months in power, however, the previous Government realised it needed to address growing concerns about car parking in the context of increases in population density.

It called a car parking summit, which was eventually held the month after the election with a new Government in place.

That summit and subsequent public consultation shows up a divide in expert and public opinion.

According to a summary on the Government’s planning portal, the summit came up with a range of ideas including “unbundling” housing from car parking, addressing the sense of “entitlement” around car parking, and noting that “car parking is not liked as much as we think – good public transport is better”.

Public consultation on the issue had a different flavour, with 40 per cent of respondents saying they “occasionally” have parking problems on their local streets and 30 per cent “frequently” having problems.

The consultation also revealed “negative perceptions” of public transport “in relation to personal safety, uncertainty and infrequency of services, and difficult to access”.

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