Facing an affordability crisis, Minneapolis plans to encourage denser development citywide.
Like many U.S. cities, Minneapolis has a housing shortage. Unlike most, it’s trying to do something about it. Earlier this month the City Council overwhelmingly approved an ambitious plan to encourage higher-density development and increase the supply of housing. The trick was to couch pro-development policies in progressive pieties.
Minneapolis’s housing problem is becoming severe. Population growth has outpaced new construction, leaving a shortfall of about 20,000 homes since 2010. This has driven the rental vacancy rate from a healthy 5% in 2014 down to a tight 2%. “Rents are rising out of control and people are being displaced,” Mayor Jacob Frey tells me.
Once a decade, municipalities in the Twin Cities area submit “comprehensive plans” to the Metropolitan Council, a regional planning commission. Local officials typically make these documents vague to allow for maximum flexibility. But the “Comp Plan” the Minneapolis City Council just passed is different. Its detailed zoning maps and rule changes leave little wiggle room for officials next year, when Minneapolis embarks on its first citywide rezoning since 1999.
The Comp Plan would allow the construction of duplexes and triplexes in areas once reserved for single-family homes, rezoning areas near public transportation for larger apartment buildings, and doing away with parking requirements for new housing. These provisions stirred controversy. Red “Don’t Bulldoze our Neighborhood” signs went up in areas zoned for single-family homes.
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