Hong Kong low residential parking maximums in the 1970s
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Brief summary of this reform
Hong Kong aggressively restricted residential parking supply in the 1970s using strict parking maximums. The parking maximums were part of the HK Government's policy of restraining private car ownership that began in the early 1970s. Although parking maximums were abandoned in 1981 (with a switch to fiscal methods of restraining car ownership growth), the low parking maximums of the 1970s left a legacy that led to modest parking supply and high parking prices in Hong Kong ever since. There are lessons here, even if this might be difficult for others to emulate.
Why should you care?
The 1970s residential parking maximums in Hong Kong were very unusual. Perhaps the only case of the deliberate use of parking maximums to constrain the growth of car ownership.
Although the policy was in place for less than 10 years, those years were a period of high economic and population growth. So the parking maximums policy seems to have been a key part of why Hong Kong has very high parking prices and modest parking minimums even now.
China (HK was a British Colony at the time)
Hong Kong SAR
Key actor type
influence vehicle ownership
I don't know
Is it a model or a warning?
Main parking category
Main parking paradigm shift
maximums or caps (including minimums switched to maximums)
Away from excessive parking supply
Adaptive Parking thrust
D: Discourage or limit parking supply in certain contexts
Goals of the reform
Restraint of private car ownership. Parking was a key tool, perhaps THE key tool of that period, aimed at restricting car ownership growth in the 1970s as part of the HK Government's policy of restraining private car ownership that began in the early 1970s.
Impetus (what problem, campaign, opportunity or event prompted action?)
Economic success in Hong Kong in the late 1960s and early 1970s had led to rapidly rising car ownership (starting from an extremely low level) which quickly caused severe traffic and parking problems in the context of very high population densities within the urbanized areas.
Detailed description of the reform
Hong Kong had strict maximums for residential development starting in the early 1970s (exact year needed) and 1981, when parking minimums were adopted instead.
In 1981, there was a switch to relying on 'fiscal tools' such as increased vehicle purchase and ownership taxes and fuel taxes to contain car ownership growth. At that time, the HK Government decided that restricting residential parking supply was no longer necessary.
The Hong Kong Planning Standards and Guidelines 1992 edition issued by the Planning Department, explained the earlier switch away from restricting parking supply:
"Parking standards for residential development were formulated in the light of the introduction of fiscal measures to restrict directly the rate of growth in private vehicle ownership and the abandonment of restraint on car ownership by a restriction of residential parking spaces. The overall intention of the standards is to ensure that, except in special cases, future residential developments should have sufficient parking provision to match the current and anticipated car ownership of residents. Generally, therefore, minimum rather than maximum standards are set. This should enable developers to be aware from outset of the extent of parking provision they can plan."
We can see that there was a switch to a more conventional parking supply approach. Nevertheless, the 1970s policy left its mark on HK parking.
Results or impacts
Despite being in place for less than a decade, these residential parking maximums had a long-term impact on Hong Kong parking supply and prices.
Hong Kong's population rose from 3,995,400 in 1970 to 5,109,812 in 1981. And the 1970s was (mostly) a time of rapid economic growth in Hong Kong. So a large increment of Hong Kong housing took place with very low rates of parking.
The success of the policy meant Hong Kong still had low car ownership in 1981 and the government fully intended to continue to restrain the growth of car ownership. So the residential parking minimums that were adopted in 1981 were set at low levels. In fact, in a context of low car ownership, all of Hong Kong's parking minimums were set at low levels.
So the parking maximums of the 1970s were an important influence on low rates of parking with buildings built BOTH in the 1970s AND in buildings built since then.
Parking prices in Hong Kong are very high. For example, as of early 2021, monthly parking fees in HK public housing range from HK$1,150 (USD148) per month in the most outlying area facilities with the lowest occupancy rates to HK$2,890 (USD384) per month in central areas with high parking occupancy rates.
Sources and acknowledgements
Paul Barter (26 Nov 2013) "Hong Kong has parking minimums AND very expensive parking. How can that be?" Reinventing Parking
13 Mar 2021