Minimum car park requirements inflate property prices, hinder home ownership

March 24, 2024
Malaysia

As much as 25-35% of the costs involved in housing construction are to comply with minimum carpark requirements, according to architect Lillian Tay, vice-president of Veritas Design Group. 

Car parks form a large portion of the total Gross Floor Area (GFA) of housing projects and make up a significant amount of the purchase price of a high-rise property. 

Speaking at Rehda Institute’s Housing Conference held last month, Tay believes the extra cost of paying for a car park forced upon a first-home buyer hinders their ability to afford home ownership sooner. 

The typical costs in Kuala Lumpur can range from RM130 per sq ft for a podium car park, and from RM250 per sq ft for a basement parking lot. 

State regulations and local council bylaws require strata developers to provide a minimum number of carpark lots for each residential unit. 

The requirements vary depending on the property type and are more relaxed in the case of low-cost housing. 

In Selangor, property developers are generally required to build two carpark lots per unit, and as much as 20% allocated to visitors. 

Drawing on previous experiences, Tay highlighted a case study where a building with a 440 to 500 sq ft car park, with a cost of RM146 per sq ft (amounting to RM73,000). 

With the unit priced at RM 141,000 each, the carpark made up as much as 34% of construction costs while only 66% of the cost is attached to the 717 sq ft residential units. 

“The typical units being built today are smaller so they are more affordable, so you end up with this ironic scenario where you’re building that much footprint for a car, as opposed to for a family,” Tay pointed out. 

Lillian Tay is the former president of the Malaysian Institute of Architects. 

She recommended that affordable housing be built near public transportation, and that parking spaces be limited in inner-city housing where mass transport is more readily available. 

Tay noted that parking structures could be rented out at times of peak demand or during emergencies, but acknowledged that removing parking spaces would only be feasible where public transportation is a viable substitute. 

She said reducing minimum carpark requirements at transit-oriented developments (TODs) would encourage public transport use and minimise reliance on cars. That will help ease traffic congestion, as well as reduce greenhouse gas emissions. 

TOD is a land-use solution that focuses on enhancing accessibility by encouraging compact, high-density and mixed-use developments within an easy walk of a transit station. But, according to Tay, it is a relatively new concept. 

Malaysia’s cities adhere to a car-centric model of development, which impedes the country’s objective of further developing public transportation. 

Poor walkability and a lack of last-mile connectivity discourages urbanites to make the switch to public transportation. 

“Our towns and cities today have many barriers towards walkability – multiple highways that make them disconnected, obstructive utility structures, discontinuous sidewalks, fences, boundaries and gated communities… all creating unwalkable neighbourhoods and dependency on car transport,” she said. 

She added that KL’s rail network has relatively lower ridership than Seoul and Singapore despite nearly double the rail length. 

Ridership and population density in KL compared with Seoul and Singapore. (Rehda Institute pic) 

Tay further said the split between public and private transportation in KL is currently at a 25:75 ratio, whereas the KL Structure Plan targets a 60:40 split by 2040. As a result, the city has a long way to go before it can fulfill those aspirations. 

The shift from a car-centric city to one focused on public transportation also goes beyond the issue of affordability. 

From an environmental standpoint, it would help Malaysia meet its commitments to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions by 45% by 2030. 

Tay also highlighted a study by the World Bank that shows up to 2.2% of GDP economic losses in Malaysia (around RM24.7 billion) can be attributed to traffic congestion. 

Road transport is the second-largest carbon emitter in the country (25%) after the energy industry, according to a report titled “Climate Change and Health in Asia” (October 2021) by the Association of Academies and Societies of Sciences in Asia. 

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