Aside from properties in ultra-urban areas, parking is typically a key component of the multifamily experience. Residents need somewhere to reliably—and safely—stow their vehicles while in their units and, just as important, know that option will remain available throughout their entire tenure on the property.
It seems like a simple demand, but according to property owners, providing reliable parking can be a challenge—and for several reasons.
Fortunately, there are creative and tech-driven solutions that can help. Here are the biggest parking problems facing property owners today and how they’re dealing with them.
Problem 1: Too Many Cars, Too Few Spots
One of the biggest hurdles property owners face is too-high demand for existing parking spots.
“No matter how many spots we provide, there is always a need for more, and our projects always have more parking than the city code requires,” says Masoud Shojaee, CEO and chairman of the board at Shoma Group, a development firm in Florida.
There are a number of ways to deal with this issue, and most take a multipronged approach. First, employing a valet company can help. These alleviate backups at gates and parking entrances and ensure residents get parked quickly and with ease. They can also be monetized. As Shojaee explains, “It can provide convenience for tenants and generate revenue for the property."
Parking management platforms that calculate how many spots are available in a lot can help, too.
“These give users the ability to know immediately whether or not there’s space for their vehicle,” says Jim Driscoll, senior vice president of development and acquisitions at Blue Onyx, a development, construction, and management firm. “They help to eliminate frustration and time wasted by the resident.”
On some properties, MEB Management Services uses parking apps like Parkcade and Zark to allow parking spot reservations for a fee. They’ve also worked to promote alternative transport options among residents.
“We’re also promoting other options to reduce parking demand such as adding bike storage, encouraging carpooling programs, and offering ride-share programs at some of our developments,” says Amity Dalton, vice president of new development at MEB. “We’ve also explored partnerships with nearby parking garages or facilities to supplement on-site parking availability.”
Problem 2: A Rise in EV Demand
A rise in EV use is posing a challenge, too, particularly for existing properties. While many new developments are adding them in from the ground up, already-built buildings face big decisions—and big costs.
“It seems like most newly built properties have stations, so the question for existing properties is whether to put them in and when,” says Todd Watkins, partner and chief operating officer at RailField, a real estate investment firm. “The people I talk to seem to believe the growth in EVs is coming, but it hasn’t hit yet in our areas. So the question is whether you need to put charging stations in now, expend the cost, and wait for demand to come or wait for demand and have potential customers think your property is out of date.”
For those that do decide to add EV stations, the next question is how. Most properties opt to rent the units and have them professionally managed and maintained. Others opt to own their stations. In both cases, these can be monetized.
“We’ve been partnering with a company out of Texas where we provide the electrical infrastructure, they provide the chargers, and we split the net profits from people using the charging stations,” Watkins says. “They’re also researching where there are government grants to help us reduce the overall costs.”
In certain areas, EV use is higher, and demand for charging spots is strong. On these properties, Driscoll says, reservation apps are critical.
“Rather than having the option of plugging in their car and leaving it until after it’s charged or until the next morning, residents will have to reserve a specific timeframe to charge their vehicle,” Driscoll says.
Problem 3. Security in Parking Areas
Finally, no matter how parking is arranged, security is a main concern for property owners. There are many ways to tackle this, including gated entry, toll tag/bar code technology, key fobs for any entering pedestrians, security cameras, and more.
“Our gated garages feature license plate recognition technology to enhance security," Shojaee says. "We also utilize a parking management company to monitor outside parking spaces and ensure that only registered vehicles are on site."
For those with gated lots, high-speed, timed solutions are ideal. As Al Lord, founder of Lexerd Capital Management, puts it, “Drivers are always trying to run the gate.”
Owners should also ensure that any tech solutions regarding parking security, like cameras, gates, or call boxes, aren’t reliant on Wi-Fi.
These can “fail or lose some functionality when the Wi-Fi system goes down,” according to Sue Vickery, principal at multifamily advisory firm Caryatid Consulting. “Ensure the call box at the garage is easy to use and does not rely on a Wi-Fi signal to function properly.”