How Much Parking?

Less than you might think. As communities are formed, most build “code minimum” parking, meaning the number of spaces required by their municipality. As people live in cohousing, they tend to find they need fewer cars than they first expected. People tend to drive less and share vehicles more, resulting in reduced need for parking. Increased parking needs can happen if the number of drivers living in community increases due to adding roommates, children becoming teens, etc.


Special arrangements are often made for those with limited mobility. ADA laws require a minimum number of accessible spaces. While those spaces may be permanently marked, some communities mark their ADA spaces with movable signs that can be placed in the space most convenient for the member who needs the reserved parking. These spaces are often informally reserved for a particular individual who needs the space. Temporary signs may also be used if the accessibility need is short term and perhaps not legally defined; a person with a broken leg, for example.

Reserved Parking

Communities vary in their use of reserved parking. The most efficient option that will require the least amount of paving is unreserved parking. However, when parking supply is limited, it is important for residents to know they will have a space when they arrive home. Some communities address this with parking that is reserved for residents and not available to visitors. The down side of this approach is that it may create a challenge if there is a midday gathering of guests when many residents are away at work.

Garages and Covered Parking

Some communities offer private garages or covered parking. In some urban or low-density sites, covered parking is needed to achieve other community goals and may be available to everyone. In most other settings when covered or garage parking is available, it is an added cost for those who choose to purchase it. In keeping with cohousing values, garages are not included as part of individual units but are placed on the perimeter of the site like other types of parking.

In some cases there are restrictions on the use of parking for storage. There are several reasons for these restrictions. In some cases, fire codes come into play. In the case of covered visible parking, aesthetics matter. Most communities require that a garage be used to park a vehicle to avoid increased parking in unreserved spaces.

Requests and Rules

Many communities have parking policies that require all residents to abide by agreed-upon norms. Another approach some communities use is to rely on the relationships in the community and make requests of one another. For example, in a community where there is no reserved parking, a member who works late and does not feel safe crossing the full parking lot in the middle of the night may make a request for a space near her home to be held for her.

The distinction of using requests versus rules to get needs met is not unique to parking, but parking is a great place to think about it as many community conflicts arise around parking needs.


Parking policy can vary greatly from community to community. Legal or code factors around things like fire lanes can come into play, along with possible alternative uses for parking areas such as storage of landscape material. In the end, each community finds the balance that works for its members. Below are some topics commonly addressed in community parking policy:

– How many cars can you have? Per household? Based on size of unit? Per driver?
– What types of cars? Legal license? Expired tags? RVs? Commercial vehicles? Trailers?
– Can vehicles be parked in places other than striped spaces?
– How are parking requirements enforced? Fines? Towing? Are fire lanes different?
– Who oversees parking and enforcement?
– Reserved spaces: for elderly or reduced mobility? for late arrival? for delivery truck access? for electric vehicle charging?