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Homeowners and developers across the country are getting equally creative with how to repurpose parking. Here the Chicago Tribune explores several cases that are shining examples of innovative start ups and are driving profits to a number of beneficiaries...if regulations will allow.

In 2012, Bryan and Jen Danger quit their jobs, rented out their Portland, Ore., house and drove south through Mexico and Central America for 1½ years.

When they returned home to visit friends and family, one week became two, and two weeks became months. They needed a permanent place to stay, but still had tenants living in their home.

“At some point, it hit us: Our house was rented, but our garage was empty,” Danger said. “We offered to reduce our tenants’ rent, and we could convert the garage into a home base.”

Once the plan was hatched — in Oregon, it’s legal to convert a garage into a living space — Danger and his wife decided to do the work themselves. Relying on reclaimed wood and their own handiwork, the pair transformed the 460-square-foot garage into a home, complete with a navigable kitchen, bedroom and bathroom.

“We now have a home that someone rents and pays the mortgage for, and we live in the garage,” Danger said. “It’s pretty awesome.”

In the United States, there are overwhelmingly more parking spots than cars, and some clever homeowners and renters with vacant spaces are finding alternative ways to take advantage of this scenario. Estimates range from 3.4 to 8 spaces per vehicle, based on 2011 research from the University of California Transportation Center.

A 2016 study from the Center for Neighborhood Technology, a nonprofit organization focused on advocacy and research, looked at the garages and parking lots of 40 Chicago apartment buildings and found that one-third of the parking spots sat empty.

At the same time, the number of new drivers is declining, so even fewer cars may need parking in the future. A 2016 nationwide study from the Transportation Research Institute at the University of Michigan found that from 1983 to 2014, there was a 47 percent drop in 16-year-olds with driver’s licenses, and there was a 16.4 percent drop for those ages 20 to 24.

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