How important was the single-family zoning ban in Minneapolis?

By Jake Blumgart, Governing, May 26, 2022

“Janne Flisrand and Neighbors for More Neighbors were at the heart of [the] move to legalize triplexes and duplexes wherever single-family homes are allowed. This ‘single-family zoning ban’ captured headlines nationwide in 2018 … as a powerfully progressive piece of policymaking that other cities should emulate. 

“But the actual number of units produced … is … not impressive. In the last two years, the number of duplex, triplex, and fourplex units permitted increased from 13 in 2015 to 53 in 2021 … not enough to address the larger supply crunch.

Housing reform bigger than one rule change

“For Flisrand … the triplex rule … is part of a larger story of housing reform in Minneapolis. Even in 2018, Neighbors for More Neighbors noted that it would not radically transform the housing supply (that was actually the argument of their opponents). Zoning changes may be necessary for more substantial changes … [and] allows for more possibilities, but doesn’t guarantee them and certainly does not produce [housing units] quickly.

“The triplex rule was just one of a package of reforms in the 2040 comprehensive plan and, Flisrand argues, not the most effective one. Enacted around the same time … was an inclusionary zoning law [that] requires some new developments to include affordable housing. Transit corridors were upzoned, and minimum height limits set downtown and in other already dense areas.

“Maximum dwelling occupancy caps were scrapped, which legalized group houses, while accessory dwelling unit rules were tweaked to make granny flats and backyard apartments more feasible. Single-room occupancy apartments were legalized, homeless shelter rules changed to allow them across the city, and mandatory parking minimums eliminated.

“In Flisrand’s opinion, it’s that last one that made the biggest difference. Parking is hugely expensive to build, and mandating its construction results in projects with more space for cars than necessary and fewer units of housing. Developers usually still provide parking, but are better able to target the amount to the market and location instead of being forced to overbuild.”

Read the full article here. (~7 min.)

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