From 2015 to 2017, UrbanToronto and its sister publication, SkyriseCities, ran an occasional series of articles under the heading Explainer. Each one took a concept from Urban Planning, Architecture, Construction, or other topics that often wind up in our publications, and presented an in depth look at it. It's time to revisit (and update where necessary) those articles for readers who are unfamiliar with them. While you may already know what some of these terms mean, others may be new to you. We will be (re)publishing Explainer on a weekly basis.

Along with the updated and republished articles, we are also adding to the Explainer series, filling in gaps in the general knowledge bank. This week's article is brand new.

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The City of Toronto has made changes to its parking requirements for new development. On November 10th, 2021, City Planning filed to amend Zoning By-Law 569-2013 which holds jurisdiction over the parking requirements for new developments in the City. Previously the requirements were calculated for new residential developments through a formula which mandated 0.3 spots for every studio unit, 0.5 spots for every one-bedroom unit, 0.8 spots for every two-bedroom unit, and 1 spot for every unit with three or more bedrooms.

Cars parked in a garage in Toronto, image by Craig White

Developers were finding in recent years — as the price of building parking spaces has escalated — that they could not sell nor lease to car owners all of the spots that the city was requiring them to build. (At the same time, the price of housing has risen substantially enough that private vehicles have become increasingly out of reach for many people.) The result was that the City was receiving Minor Variance or Zoning By-Law Amendment applications from developers to reduce the minimum parking requirement in just about every new project.

The changes have completely removed the minimum requirement for standard parking spaces, depending on the development type — it is the City’s hope that removing the minimums will create an easier process for developers and homebuyers — but minimums largely remain the same for visitor and accessible parking, which are determined on a site-specific basis (and also include the minimums for electric vehicle spaces).

Planning's intention is that by adopting these changes, some of the issues Toronto is experiencing can be mitigated to a degree, including traffic congestion (encouraging transit and active transportation like walking and cycling by reducing the attractiveness of driving), housing affordability (by not requiring expensive parking spaces that all condo purchasers or apartment renters subsidize), and the climate crisis (by promoting greener transportation options). Now, condo developers will only need to build the parking spaces that purchasers are willing to pay for, not additional, unsold ones that the City is also demanding.

When the motion to amend the parking minimum regulations passed on December 15th, 2021, Major John Tory said "Today, City Council took real action for a healthier, more sustainable city. This decision means that developers will no longer be required to build parking spaces that home buyers don't want, making it easier for residents who live without a car to purchase a home.” The amendment and all its details can be found here.

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Do you have other planning terms that you would like to see featured on Explainer? Share your comments and questions in the comments section below!

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