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Local Advocacy Readout Tags: Government Affairs

We continue to advocate for measures to increase housing supply and keep a pulse on local legislation to keep members in the know.

What’s happening:

A few years ago, the City of Minneapolis introduced its 2040 Plan which included plans to “expand opportunities to increase the housing supply in a way that meets changing needs and desires.” As a part of this plan, the City passed an ordinance allowing triplexes to be built on any single family lot—a concept known as upzoning, or densification.

Triplexes on single-family lots have been legal since January 1, 2020. Unfortunately, that change alone has not been enough to bring forward as many projects forward as most would have hoped. By September of 2020, only three plans had been brought forward. It’s clear that changing zoning ordinances alone is not enough: The city’s process for approving development plans remains cost prohibitive and creates technical barriers bringing these projects to market.

Recently, a nonprofit and partner-developer acquired eight properties with the intent to convert them into triplexes, tripling the housing supply into 24 affordable housing units in North Minneapolis.

Read more from the Star Tribune here
(Please note: some Star Tribune articles require a paid subscription)

Key takeaways:

  • “The neighborhood supported it. The city offered [Black Lives of Unitarian Universalism (BLUU)] assistance to fund it. But when [their leader] presented the plan for the first triplex to the city, planning staff said it didn’t fit the neighborhood. A City Council committee agreed, telling her to go back to the drawing board.”

  • “Despite the 2040 Comprehensive Plan’s elimination of single-family zoning four years ago, zoning codes have not yet been updated to align with the plan, making it hard to redevelop lots into multifamily housing.”

Why You Should Care

Realtors® especially recognize the overwhelming demand for additional housing units, and understand the impacts of such a desperately pinched supply. This example demonstrates the difficultly—and stands as stark example of—a broken process.

When the city of Minneapolis created duplex/triplex on single-family lots policy, it did not address secondary policies (side/rear yard setbacks, floor area ratios, occupancy limits, height restrictions, parking sq. footage requirements, etc.) As was shown in this example, secondary policy barriers, unaddressed, become the new top-level barriers. It’s too easy, too costly, and too often to arrive at NO in the city’s planning approval process. Even a project intended to bring much-needed affordability, and which had the city itself as a significant funding partner ($923,000), was told “no” here. 

What’s Next:

There just isn’t enough housing supply to meet demand, and the stakes are too high for secondary barriers to keep halting projects that create desperately-needed opportunities to densify. Realtors® have been highlighting these roadblocks and potential issues since the 2040 Plan was first introduced. We must continue advocating for a more streamlined process that supports the broader goal of growth, avoids the need for variances, and keeps important supply-building projects moving forward. Let’s Keep Building!