The headlines were electrifying: Minneapolis legislates an end to single-family zoning, the cornerstone of the American dream. In urban-development circles, the idea was a hit. A number of other localities promised to look at the plan (the state of Oregon has already passed a similar bill) and four Democratic presidential hopefuls endorse the idea. Jenney Schuetz, a fellow in the Metropolitan Policy Program at the Brookings Institution, titled her article on Minneapolis’s move, “The Most Wonderful Plan of the Year.”
A close look reveals a proposition that is less draconian than opponents feared, but also one that doesn’t get at the city’s root problem: inadequate access to housing for people with middle incomes or below.
The Minneapolis 2040 plan intends to enhance housing supply by allowing denser development in much of the city. It will permit duplexes, triplexes, and small backyard houses (accessory dwelling units, or ADUs) in once exclusively single-family zones, and it promotes large residential buildings and towers near the downtown core, as well as a variety of smaller-scaled apartment buildings along arterials and transit routes.
Though the city council approved the plan last December, it can go into effect as soon as this November, having received an OK from the regional Metro Planning Council in late September with a final city council vote scheduled for this month.
Minneapolis has grown rapidly, with a current population of about 423,000, up 12 percent from 2010. Developers have responded “to a huge resurgence of people living downtown,” says Matthew Kreilich, principal of the firm Snow Kreilich. The neighborhood’s late 19th-century warehouse district and North Loop, he says, “are seeing a diversity of uses, not just residential but commercial and office. It’s vibrant day and night.”
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"Minneapolis and the End of the American Dream House"; By James S. Russell; Architectural Record; October 2, 2019