Updated: 11:35 a.m. Friday | Posted: 6 p.m. Thursday
The Minneapolis City Council on Friday approved a controversial zoning plan called Minneapolis 2040.
Supporters say the long-range plan is a way to help increase affordable housing, reduce racial disparities and increase living wage jobs in the city. One way the plan seeks to accomplish these and more than a dozen other goals is to increase density in residential areas made up of single family homes.
Supporters of that change say the city's new zoning ordinances will increase affordable housing options for low income residents.
However, some critics say the plan doesn’t guarantee that builders will choose to create affordable units.
Council members will consider the zoning code change next month. City officials expect the changes to go into effect next January.
Controversial residential zoning changes for Minneapolis are on track to go into effect in January, as part of a long-range plan for the city called "Minneapolis 2040."
The plan is the city's vision for the future, covering everything from the environment and employment to arts and culture and public health. Though much of it has not been controversial, the part dealing with zoning changes and housing has generated strong feelings and thousands of comments from residents, pros and cons.
One zoning change permits five- to 10-story buildings along more transit corridors. Another allows duplexes and triplexes in neighborhoods that had just single-family homes. The goal is to increase the supply of affordable housing in the city.
But at this point, Minneapolis 2040 doesn’t seem to be inspiring a wave of new construction.
“We don’t have a huge pile of projects waiting,” said Kimberly Holien of the city’s planning department. “We’re in a pretty typical pattern now.”
The 2040 plan recently passed a review by the Metropolitan Council. A City Council committee gave the plan preliminary approval Wednesday and council members are expected to give it a final OK Friday.
Council President Lisa Bender, a leading proponent of the zoning changes, expects those changes — in conjunction with many other efforts — will help the city address its shortage of affordable housing.
“It will take time to dig ourselves out of this hole that the city has found itself in,” she said. “I think the change will be very incremental.”
Bender doesn't expect many homes will be torn down and replaced with multifamily dwellings. “I think we'll be much more likely to see conversions of existing older, larger homes into duplexes or triplexes,” she said.
Council member Linea Palmisano has been the only councilor to oppose the new zoning rules.
“I fear this plan has unintended consequences for our naturally occurring affordable housing and affordable starter homes,” she said. “I take issue with the idea that speculative investors will simply build affordable units simply because we created a new market for them to build in.’
But Palmisano believes the impact of the plan, for good or bad, has often been exaggerated.
“I don't think that this plan is going to be the savior of the future of Minneapolis. And I don't think it's going to be our demise,” she said.
About half the renters in Minneapolis struggle to pay their rent. Since 2000, Minneapolis has lost about 15,000 housing units considered affordable for people earning half of the median area income.
Meanwhile, little new affordable housing is getting built. The Metropolitan Council says Minneapolis added just 230 affordable apartments in 2017, along with some 1,800 other more expensive apartments.
An apartment is considered affordable if a low-income household can pay for it with no more than 30 percent of their income. For example, for a family of four with an income of $50,000, an affordable rent for a three-bedroom apartment would be $1,300 per month or less.