How to Hit the Sweet Spot for Car Spots in Your Development
Aussies love their cars and local governments expect Developers to give car owners somewhere to park them. Depending on the size of your development you might also need to provide turning bays, visitor parking and car washing bays.

Car spaces cost money but not all car spaces are created equal – there’s a big price difference between a single carport, a two-car stacker and a multi-storey basement carpark.

The key is to factor parking into your project feasibility, to see if the numbers add up. This means consulting planning documents, Town Planners and your local Council.

If the car parking requirements for your Council are driving you nuts, or you’re not sure of the ‘sweet spot’ for car parking in your development, then read on….
Car parking requirements vary from region to region and state to state.

You can find car parking requirements in a Council’s Development Control Plan (NSW), Planning Scheme (VIC) or City Plan (QLD).

There will usually be a table specifying the minimum car parking requirements for different types and sizes of development.

Outer suburban areas tend to have higher minimum requirements because public transport isn’t up to scratch. Councils in these areas like to minimise the overflow of parking onto surrounding streets and typically require at least one car parking space per dwelling.
On the flipside, there are some inner-city areas where apartment developments are being approved with very little or even no parking, sometimes in a bid to steer homeowners away from travel by private car. This might happen in a suburb where it’s super-easy to walk everywhere, or one with excellent public transport. In these instances, a Developer might need to offer scooter or bike parking or provide a car-sharing service.

It’s a good idea to consult a Town Planner to find out the requirements for any potential development site because what you’ll discover is that parking is key to your project feasibility. A Town Planner will be able to help you interpret the rules for your Council and will know if and when the rules might be relaxed or tightened depending on the site context.
Can car parking be a dealbreaker?

YES! If you can’t achieve the required car parking on your site, it’s a pretty safe bet that council will refuse the dwelling yield you’ve proposed in your development application. So while your land size and zoning might say 10 apartments are permitted, if you can only get 8 parking spots but the requirements state you need more, then your application will probably get knocked back.

But...don’t give up on your development site too quickly. While car parking is a critical outcome you have to resolve, there are lots of different ways to meet the requirements and also some great technologies for tricky sites.

1.  Side-by-side parking

As the name suggests, this is parking where each car has an allocated space and can enter and exit independently of other vehicles. The larger your site the more likely it is you’ll be providing side-by-side parking.

For smaller developments this might translate to a double garage at street level, while for larger developments, this could mean a multi-level basement carpark.

Of course a freestanding house can also have a double garage at basement level, but the cost of excavating a basement doesn’t necessarily make sense on a smaller scale.

On a big apartment complex, putting parking at basement level could mean you’ll get an extra floor of apartments. It’s then a case of calculating the cost of the basement excavation and the increased profit from the additional dwellings to see if this expense is worthwhile.

As a general rule, the wider the site, the more cost-effective the basement becomes.

2.  Tandem car parking

Popular on narrow sites or to reduce building costs, tandem parking provides space for two cars parked one behind the other. This means the car that is parked first will be blocked in by the car that is parked second. While it’s true that tandem parking is viewed less favourably than side-by-side parking, there are plenty of buyers who would rather have two spaces than one and will therefore pay a premium for a property with tandem parking.

You’ll only need to supply one garage door and a tandem garage can double as storage if required
3.  Turntables

A simple and practical solution for narrow sites, a turntable is a remote-operated platform that can turn a vehicle 360 degrees in either direction. This means you can drive into an off-street car space and instead of having to reverse out, the turntable will turn and allow your vehicle to face the street for a forward-facing exit.

There are systems available for use both inside and outside and you can expect to pay from $18,000 for a four-metre-diameter turntable (note that you’ll need a space of around five metres in diameter to install a turntable).

A turntable could be a good solution if your development is positioned on a busy intersection where reversing a car out into traffic could prove hazardous.
4.  Car stackers

If you’ve spent time in a large shopping centre, you’ll know that a lift well takes up a lot less real estate than escalators and travelators. Likewise, using a car lift or car stacker means you can take advantage of vertical space to store more than one car.

You might have noticed car stackers becoming more common in city areas with little to no new land supply – they’re a great way of providing parking in space-constrained urban environments.

You will, however, need to dig a pit to create that vertical space below ground level. Expect to pay from $17,000 to construct a pit and from $16,000 for a basic, two-car stacker up to $60,000 for premium models.

I’ve seen carstackers used for an entire car parking solution for a 10-storey car park, where your car is automatically slotted into a free space. That’s a more extreme solution, but Developers are always looking for new ways to solve old problems!

5.  Visitor car parking, car washing bays

Councils also have rules around the provision of visitor car parking. Depending on the design of your development, visitor parking might be at street level, in the basement or via a car stacker.

Visitor parking is especially important in city suburbs where on-street parking simply isn’t an option either as a result of more demand than supply, or due to main road restrictions or clearways.

In some cases you might also be expected to provide car washing bays so that residents can safely wash their cars within the confines of the building.

In Summary...

At first glance many of these solutions look like an expensive fix – after all, we’re talking in the tens of thousands of dollars for some of these options. But it all comes down to feasibility and the return on your investment.

In some instances, onerous parking requirements will blow your budget and send you back to the drawing board to hunt for a new development site.

In other cases, Council may not have legislated for the best possible parking scenario, but by providing more (or better) parking than required, you could increase your profit margin.

Generally speaking you’ll get a much bigger return for a property offering two car spaces than a property with a single car space. You may need to spend an extra $40,000 to add that additional space, but your yield might increase by $100,000 or $200,000.

As always, it pays to weigh up the risks and rewards before you allocate funds or lock in a decision.

Just remember, if you can nail the car parking on your next project there’s a good chance you’ll drive away with a better than expected profit, so it’s 100% worth a little extra research time.
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