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23 June 2013

Parking crunch a headache for condos

Residents bemoan lack of spaces for additional cars and visitors, while buyers get more savvy

Source: Straits Times 
By Lim Yan Liang

Gone are the days when condominium owners could each park two or three cars in the estate, and not have to pay a cent for the privilege.

With newer condominiums in land-scarce Singapore cutting back on parking spaces - many now providing just one a unit - developments are getting strict with their car-owning residents.

But the issue of parking is a potential headache not just for up-and-coming condos but for older ones too.

Two weeks ago, some owners at Parc Oasis in Jurong East became upset over proposed measures to introduce monthly parking fees of $100 for a second car and $150 for subsequent vehicles.

The management council of the 18-year-old condo, which has 950 units and as many parking spaces, proposed the measure to reduce deficits in the maintenance fund.

The higher parking fees were voted in last Thursday, after failing twice before.

But the condo's residents can consider themselves lucky: they at least have the option of parking more than one car in their estate.

Industry experts said they are seeing more new condos imposing strict rules on additional vehicles.

"Many condos today are still willing to cater to second cars, but some condos don't allow a third car at all," said Mr Chris Koh, director of property consultancy Chris International.

"They are encouraging residents to park their additional car at the nearby HDB carparks, especially the suburban condos," he added.

An even bigger concern for residents may be the trend towards zero visitor parking in newer developments.

Some recent launches highlight this.

Residences Botanique in Yio Chu Kang has 81 parking spaces for its 81 residential units, while the 161-unit Parc Elegance in Telok Kurau has 161.

Along Amber Road, the Aristo@Amber has 56 spaces for 56 units, while 16@Amber has 40 spaces for 46 units.

Contrast this with the older 10ha Mandarin Gardens not too far away, which has some 1,500 parking spaces for its 1,000 residential units.

Bank executive Gary Ho, 27, who moved into Espira Spring in Telok Kurau in 2010, said it is difficult for visitors, since the 30-unit low-rise development has only 20-plus spaces for resident parking and none for visitors, forcing them to park along the road.

Mr Ho counts himself fortunate: Some 30 per cent of the condo's residents are foreigners who do not drive, leaving enough space for his family's two cars.

His colleague, who lives across the road at Palm Vista, is not as lucky.

"She and her boyfriend have two cars, which they have to take turns parking outside," he said.

Managing agents said some owners do not realise there is a parking crunch until they move in, after which they kick up a fuss. This puts them and the condo's managing councils in a bind, especially if uncooperative owners take matters into their own hands.

In 2010, police had to be called in to intervene on at least two separate occasions when irate owners who were not allowed to park additional cars in their estates used their vehicles to block each condo's entry and exit points.

"Some owners think it's an entitlement: 'When I have two cars, I am entitled to two spaces'," said Mr Jimmie Ling, chief executive of the Association of Management Corporations in Singapore, which represents about 300 estates.

"That is a mentality that people need to change - it's a common facility to be shared by every subsidiary proprietor," he added.

His advice to would-be condo owners: Do your homework.

Indeed, said housing agents, buyers are getting savvier.

ERA marketing manager Charlie Lim recalled a family of five who were considering buying a unit at the upcoming Ripple Bay in Pasir Ris. They walked away after hearing about the strict parking policy.

"Buyers these days are much smarter," he said.

If there are not enough parking spaces, they will probably not buy, he added.