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Why all the 6-bed apartments?

A lot of new apartments feature 6-bed apartments. Why? Are lots of renters really clamoring for apartments they can share with their five best friends?

As it turns, out, no: it isn't that anyone really wants 6-bed units--not tenants, not developers. It's just a quirk of our zoning laws. And it all comes down to parking.

To understand, let's take an example: the City Place apartments at 415 and 425 S Fifth.

According to the City zoning map, those addresses are zoned R4C.

Search for R4C in the Ann Arbor's Unified Development Code, and you'll come across this table:

So, R4C requires a minimum of 1.5 spaces per "dwelling unit".

Try to figure out what a "dwelling unit" is, and how they work in the code, and you'll probably come across this language:

R4C is a multiple-family district, so it allows a maximum of 6 people per dwelling unit.

These apartment buildings are a short walk from campus, downtown, and the main bus station. They are likely to appeal to people who don't have a car, or who are happy to share with a housemate. The people planning these apartments knew that parking spaces wouldn't be a big selling point for their future tenants. And parking is expensive--especially in a downtown area like this where land is expensive. So they were interested in building the minimum parking possible. And since they're required to build 1.5 parking spaces per dwelling unit, the way to minimize parking is to build the largest units allowable--and that's 6 beds.

The result:

A parking lot that nobody asked for, taking up land that could have fit several houses or another apartment building.

At Neighbors for More Neighbors Ann Arbor, we believe in prioritizing housing for people over storage for cars. And we want to see a diversity of housing for all needs. That will certainly include some 6-bed apartments--some people do want to live with their five best friends!--but the zoning code shouldn't be dictating these choices.

Housing advocates and urban planners have long recognized parking minimums as a problem. See Vox/Mobility Lab's "The high cost of free parking" or Strong Town's page on Ending Parking Minimums.