Building code for public housing

Parking places that nobody needs

Detlef Eckert (l.) und Nicolai Grandisch begehen die neue Tiefgarage an der Kreisauer Straße in Plittersdorf.

Detleft Eckert and Nicolai Grandisch walk through the new underground parking garage in Plittersdorf.

Bonn. It is quite difficult to find parking is some areas of Bonn, but in others it seems that underground parking spaces go unused. The reason is building code as specified by the city.

The 20 parking spaces in the underground car park of the newly built apartment buildings on Kreisauer Straße are still vacant. This will change in the next few days as the new tenants move in. Nobody has to worry about parking spaces. "Probably four or five slots will remain empty," says Detlef Eckert of Bonn real estate management firm Vebowag,  which constructed the new building in Plittersdorf. "That would be a good rate," says Eckert.

Vebowag has built an underground parking garage with 20 spaces plus six outdoor parking spots for a total of 39 publicly subsidized apartments. The city specifies how many parking spaces must be provided per building. For Bonn, a parking space ratio of 0.75 is required for publicly subsidized apartment buildings. This means that two parking spaces have to be built for three apartments. If the property has good access to public transportation, only 60 percent of the residential units need parking spaces.

The Left political party wants to change this formula for publicly funded housing. "If you look into the underground garages, you will notice that a considerable part of these parking lots are never used," says Holger Schmidt, planning policy spokesman for the left-wing fraction. Many of the residents did not have their own car because of a low income.

According to a survey by the Federal Statistics Bureau, only 44.3 percent of people with net incomes below € 1300 had a car in 2017.  Further, only 39 percent of the unemployed owned a car. The Left party is asking for the ratio of parking spots for subsidized multi-family housing to be reduced from 0.75 to 0.5.  If there are good connections to the bus and railway network and long-term occupancy, this should be reduced even further to 30 percent. Currently, parking spaces are being built that are not needed and this unnecessarily increases the price of the construction project, said Schmidt. "Large underground garages usually also have design disadvantages, such as ventilation shafts or gardens which as a result cannot fit large trees," he says.

Vebowag has also noticed this trend. "We are building parking spaces that are not needed in those quantities," says Michael Kleine-Hartlage, CEO of Vebowag. For publicly assisted multifamily housing, such a change would bring progress. "Demand is always limited," says Kleine-Hartlage. The situation is also affected by demographic changes such as an increasingly aging population which no longer keeps a car.

Vebowag tries to rent unused parking spaces to external parties who are interested. If Eckert's estimate is correct, there are five parking spaces on Kreisauer Straße. For the new building on Siemensstraße in Dransdorf, he expects an occupancy of only 50 percent from the residents. Instead, the demand for alternative means of transportation is increasing. In the basement at the Kreisauer Straße building, a large storage room for bicycles has been created. About 120 square meters is available to tenants here. The demand for such storage rooms is rising, according to builders.

In Bonn, the parking space question has been decided by the city council since 1975. By comparison: The city of Dusseldorf requires a ratio of 33 percent for less than 40 square meters apartments and where there is good to very good access to public transportation. For larger apartments and with poorer connections to public transport, the ratio of 0.75 is used - just as in Bonn.

The proposal from the Left party will be decided by the city council at its meeting on January 30.  From next week on, specialist committees will study the proposal. The administration said it planned to make a statement about its position in the next few days.

Orig. text: Sabrina Bauer, Translation: ckloep