How Parking Mandates affects the Local Economy and Opportunity for Housing

an aerial shot of the camp washington neighborhood
Camp Washington’s historic and industrial neighborhood in Cincinnati Ohio

All over the country, there are cities that have mandatory parking minimums. These minimums are written in the zoning laws of these cities and have shaped the land use of our country. There is a growing movement to reconsider or eliminate parking minimums to increase density, better utilize public transportation, create more housing, and more.  

Cities like Cincinnati are creating proposals to reformat the zoning laws. Cincinnati’s Connected Communities is a series of zoning changes that Cincinnati City Council approved to repurpose their land use. To learn more about how requiring less parking can help create more housing and business click here.  

This initiative has been worked on and talked about for a three years, but neighborhoods like the Camp Washington area became proactive to solve their issues with the parking requirements.  

Camp Washington Blocked in by Parking 

Tony Ferrari, co-owner of Mom ‘n ’em Coffee & Wine in Camp Washington, began working on this restaurant in 2017. The original plan was to make an Airstream Land Yacht coffee bar. The idea was immediately met with parking requirements. The high costs of constructing parking made Ferrari reconsider the airstream and purchase a building instead in 2019. The city gave him a solution. 

“They encouraged us to put it in the lot next door, which was empty at the time, and or continue to knock down buildings in order to build a bigger footprint for parking.” said Ferrari. However, knocking down the historic buildings and homes in Camp Washington wasn’t something that he wanted to do. “How dare us? How dare the city, or even us to think we can just come in here, start bulldozing people’s houses down and make more parking spots?” So, he scaled back his original plans to accommodate a smaller area of parking that was more affordable.  

The Camp Washington neighborhood is sandwiched between railroad and highway, so it was unable to expand. This historically has a unique footprint and infrastructure that causes developers to fill out variances anytime they want to redevelop a space. Sidney Prigge, Executive Director at the Camp Washington Urban Revitalization Corporation (CWURC) said parking requirements made it hard to attract developers.  

“If you’re doing a project and it doesn’t meet your parking requirements, you have to come to the community council meetings, talk about your project, and then get a variance so you don’t have to meet those requirements…. there’re businesses that just said that’s too much work. We’re going to bow out.” said Prigge. 

In order to avoid these parking minimums, the Camp Washington neighborhood collaborated on a plan to create a parking overlay. A parking overlay is a tool used to override parking requirements within its boundary. On June 4th, 2021, the City Council approved of the parking overlay allowing the Camp Washington area to start working on plans for future development.  

Prigge says because of the parking overlay you will begin to see, “infill happening on our business district and development happening. You also probably see some more multifamily infill on properties. The neighborhood will have more people. There’s no doubt in it, especially with the investment from the Port, you’ll see a lot new development.” 

Parking effects on the Local Economy 

Mom ‘n ’em is an indoor and outdoor restaurant. Around the spring, summer, and early fall there is no doubt where most of their patrons reside.  

“Fifty-percent of our business is outdoor dining. As soon as the weather gets great, it’s packed out here every day. How do we not have this?” says Ferrari.  

As you walk on the premises of the restaurant there are plenty of round tables, there is a picnic table, and an outdoor shed that’s configured to accommodate outdoor cooking. If Ferrari went along with his original floor plan under the previous parking minimums, the most attractive part about the restaurant would not have been created. Ferrari says not having the outdoor space would’ve affected his business.  

“That’s fifty-percent of our sales, easily. So that means less staff, less opportunity, less growth,” said Ferrari. Also, the outdoor area became essential during a time when the entire country was discouraged from indoor dining. “The other funny thing about this outdoor space is we finished it the day that we were allowed to have outdoor dining during Covid. The day we finished it, the governor opened up outdoor dining. And the next day it was packed out here.” 

Ferrari said by not putting the original parking space in the area, he saved nearly $100,000 and was able to hire a few more staff to help with his business. 

And not only does Ferrari plan to continue to expand his business, but he also has plans to create more housing in the nearby area as well. “We definitely want to develop more sort of multi-unit mixed use buildings to bring more, bring more density, bring more residents, and hopefully bring more businesses as well.” 

Camp Washington is still in the initial stages of planning for the new development. Its hope is to maintain their historical artistic culture while encouraging new businesses and housing. 

More Habitats for Humanity 

In other neighborhoods outside of Camp Washington, parking minimums still present a challenge for organizations like Habitat for Humanity. Habitat is a nonprofit organization that creates and preserves opportunities for affordable homeownership. External Relations Officer, Morgan Ford, shares how parking could be a costly budget item for the organization.  

“We have houses where we had to put up to $40,000 in additional on top of what we’ve already budgeted for. So that that really makes it a little challenging when we’re trying to keep everything affordable. That’s just another addition on top of what we already have to create, and the gap of affordable homeownership is very wide.” says Ford.  

Ford points out a location in the Lower Price Hil neighborhood where Habitat is working on a single-family home. It was fortunate enough to already have an alley way to reconfigure to a parking space so the costs for parking won’t be as high. Still, for a nonprofit…every dollar counts. 

Ford shared the average cost of the homes they build is around $200,000. With the extra parking cost, it increases the mortgage their homeowners pay.  

“For Habitat for Humanity, we work off donations, fundraisers, government funding…donations from churches as well…. So, utilizing that money and not having to use it towards parking can allow us to go from building 20 homes to up to 40 homes.” says Ford.  

The potential for creating more homes is one of the reasons Ford is excited about the Connected Communities initiative. Ford says Connected Communities will, “establish a lot of opportunities in the community, not only just for Habitat for Humanity, but for business owners, as well as small business owners especially. I’m looking forward to seeing what happens and what’s next.” 

Cincinnati has a huge need for affordable homeownership. Ford says any additional income could help with Habitat’s plans to develop and be more creative with housing.  

Connected Communities 

On June 4th, 2024, the City Council Committee informally voted in favor of Connected Communities 6-3. It passed with a formal vote on June 5th, 2024.  

Hernz L. Jr. TTV Bio Code

Hernz Laguerre Jr. – Multi-Media Journalist

Hernz is a Haitian American who was born and raised in Spring Valley, NY. He attended school at S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University, where he learned to hone his skills as a storyteller. After graduating with his Bachelors in Broadcast and Digital Journalism and his Masters in Television Radio and Film, he went on to a career in media as a producer, reporter and freelance videographer for companies like ESPN and Court TV. He eventually moved to Detroit, where he worked as a Multimedia Journalist for The Detroit News and then the NPR affiliate, WDET, before starting his work with the Brick by Brick team at CET and ThinkTV. Hernz aims to produce stories that tell the bigger picture while doing his due diligence to educate and inform the public about the solutions-focused work being done in the Cincinnati and Dayton areas.