Minneapolis Council Members Want to Tie Density to Affordability

Minneapolis Council Members Want to Tie Density to Affordability

Inclusionary zoning is on the drafting table. 

(Photo by Michael Adams)

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Minneapolis officials need to show more clearly how density equals affordability. That, at least, appears to be one takeaway of a spirited, at times ugly and, no doubt (as these things usually are) racially-charged debate about Minneapolis’ long-range housing development plan — for which the public comment period ended Sunday.

One of the main points of contention: Fourplexes. The city initially proposed allowing fourplexes in single-family neighborhoods in March, when the first draft of the plan was released, as Next City reported at the time. Backlash was swift, and aimed particularly at Mayor Jacob Frey — opponents of the idea dubbed the units “freyplexes.”

The Mayor put housing at the center of his 2017 election campaign and wants to drastically pump up city funding to address the affordability crisis — and he’s supported the plan’s efforts to increase density.

But residents aren’t convinced that density will make housing more affordable, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune reports. (Or, perhaps more accurately, the residents making their voices heard are not convinced. According to the paper, the discourse so far “has been dominated by criticism from residents in neighborhoods dominated by single-family homes.”)

“Things are terrible,” Council Member Linea Palmisano said recently, according to the paper. Referencing her south Minneapolis ward, which is lined with hundreds of lawn signs demanding: “Don’t bulldoze my neighborhood,” she said: “I have never heard from so many of these people. They are angry and freaked out.”

Of course, as Next City has also covered, the Twin Cities’ housing market is still influenced by many of the intentionally segregationist, racist policies of the past. Zoning patterns are one way of furthering (or disrupting) those policies.

Still, even if this your classic tale of single-family home NIMBYism obstructing multi-family zoning, several council-members appear ready to take the criticism. And rather than backing away from density, they’re talking about tying it more directly to affordability.

From the Star-Tribune:

Much of the debate comes down to how — and whether — the plan will actually translate to more affordable housing, and not just give developers license to build expensive apartments.

[Council President Lisa] Bender said she would only support the final plan if it’s accompanied by an inclusionary zoning ordinance — a rule that would require large-scale developers to include affordable units in otherwise market-rate projects. [Member Jeremy Schroeder] also said he believes some type of mechanism to encourage below-market-rate housing will be a necessary companion for the plan to succeed.

A second draft of the plan is due in late September, according to the paper.

Rachel Dovey is an award-winning freelance writer and former USC Annenberg fellow living at the northern tip of California’s Bay Area. She writes about infrastructure, water and climate change and has been published by Bust, Wired, Paste, SF Weekly, the East Bay Express and the North Bay Bohemian

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Tags: affordable housingzoningdensity

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