Car-dependency drives young people away

Paul Schmid / MCT


How appealing is Miami to young professionals? Sure, we have a booming nightlife and great weather. But just how easy is it for a young person with a burgeoning career and limited means to make it in this city?

Miami commissioners and city staff are considering whether to move forward with an amendment to Miami’s zoning code that would eliminate parking requirements for buildings under 10,000 square feet located within close proximity to public transit. There are several benefits to this change and they would positively affect Miami socially, economically and environmentally.

As young professionals, we support this amendment because of its potential to attract people of our generation to Miami.

Miami is hungry for forward-thinking millennials to join its workforce yet the city remains inhospitable to this demographic because of its lack of affordable housing and walkability. Required parking is a major contributor to these conditions.

The cost of parking is higher than one might expect – a single parking space in a garage can cost more than $20,000 to construct. In Miami, the zoning code requires residential buildings to provide a whopping 1.5 parking spaces per unit despite such a steep price tag. Naturally, developers offset this cost through increased rent.

Often, to reduce the number of required parking spaces, developers will build fewer, larger and more expensive luxury apartments instead of smaller, affordable apartments that would house significantly more tenants. Does it come as any surprise, then, that rent consumes 43 percent of the typical Miami household’s income? Young professionals, eager to live in the city, who will never experience the Miami life.

What baffles us most is why housing targeted to our generation should be required to have parking at all. Our grandparents’ love affair with the car is outdated. We don’t want to spend all our money buying and maintaining a car. We don’t want the guilt of contributing to air pollution and energy consumption. We don’t want to worry about having a designated driver. And we definitely don't want to grow old waiting in traffic.

Look at the cities that are attracting young, brilliant minds: New York, San Francisco, Chicago. None require owning a car. With such limited parking requirements, the hip neighborhoods of these cities are typified by brownstones and compact apartment buildings. The results of such density are quiet streets with gardens, cafes and cyclists riding past. Meanwhile, the street views of Brickell and downtown are dominated by faceless parking garages immersed in a sea of angry drivers. Who would pay extra for that?

In the more sprawling areas of Miami where public transit is lacking, parking is a necessity. This amendment would only apply to buildings that are near transit hubs and corridors, which is exactly where young professionals want to live. This is a rare opportunity to make Miami life attractive and attainable to our and future generations.

Malone Matson is a sustainability consultant and is working on a eco-friendly development in Costa Rica. Ray Fort is a designer at Arquitectonica. He also an adjunct faculty member at the University of Miami School of Architecture.

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