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editorial

Don’t burden car-free residents with cost of new parking spots

FEW OF THE wealthy homebuyers who can afford one of the new luxury condos planned for near North Station are going to park their BMWs on the street. So fears that the development, which is not slated to include a garage, will overwhelm on-street parking are probably overblown. Instead, those residents who own a vehicle would likely pay to park it at one of the many garages in the area, or simply go without a car and rely on the neighborhood’s ample transit options. The Boston Redevelopment Authority should approve the 175-unit building — and be receptive to similar plans in the future.

Allowing the Lovejoy Wharf development to go forward would set an important precedent, just a few months after another plan to build 44 units without dedicated parking spaces in Allston fell apart amid neighborhood opposition. Requiring developers to build parking spots raises the costs of construction — costs that are passed along to residents and push up Boston’s already exorbitant housing prices. Although the BRA has recently started scaling back parking requirements in some neighborhoods, a development with none at all would send a message that the city is serious about bringing down parking-related housing costs.

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The real payoff for the city, though, won’t come from developments like the Lovejoy Wharf plan, which is aimed at the high end of the market. It’ll be when the city relaxes or lifts parking requirements in more reasonably priced developments that middle-class residents will see a real benefit. If Lovejoy Wharf proves that the sky won’t fall without more parking spaces, it’ll encourage similar proposals in other transit-friendly locations across Boston.

It won’t be easy. In a city notorious for parking-spot brawls in the winter, efforts to ease parking requirements often face ferocious headwinds from neighbors worried about competition for spots. It’s important for the city to acknowledge those concerns, especially in areas without easy access to transit. Yet more and more Bostonians are concluding that owning a vehicle isn’t worth the hassle; short-term rental services such as Zipcar provide access to automobiles for occasional errands without the burdens that come with ownership. It’s unfair to these residents — and harmful to Boston’s ability to attract and retain workers — to insist that people pay housing prices inflated by the cost of parking spaces they don’t use.

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