In an attempt to address Beijing’s extreme parking shortage, the Deputy Mayor of Beijing, Zhang Yankun, has announced that next year the city’s residents will have to show proof they have access to a parking spot before they can purchase a vehicle.

Beijing was home to nearly 5.6 million cars at the end of 2014, with the total number of parking spots estimated to be just 2.9 million. This mismatch has contributed to traffic congestion: the lack of parking spaces has led to motorists parking illegally on side roads or in residential compounds, blocking traffic.

A similar policy already operates in Tokyo. Paul Barter, National University of Singapore, has argued that the plan there created a robust market for parking, and suspects that it slowed down the growth of car ownership in Japan.

However, given the high cost of parking spaces even before the plan was announced, lower-income residents may be priced out of car-ownership in the city. Underground parking spots in central Beijing apartment buildings now sell for up to 1 million yuan, and even in suburbs 30 miles from the centre, parking spaces cost between 150,000 and 200,000 yuan – more than it costs to buy a small car.

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