The city of Minneapolis has released the final draft of its comprehensive plan, Minneapolis 2040 – a nearly 500-page document which will guide the city’s policy-making over the next 20 years on topics such as climate change resiliency, racial equity, and housing density. Notably, the plan has received a great deal of feedback from the community – more than 10,000 comments on its initial draft – especially regarding housing density.
Housing density has been the most controversial topic in the plan. The initial draft proposed allowing up to four units on any residential plot of land throughout the entire city. That was amended to only allowing up to three units when city planners took height and size restrictions into consideration.
“While you could accomplish [four units], it resulted in a quirky, not very livable building,” said Heather Worthington, Minneapolis’ director of long-range planning. “It was difficult to put four units with an American Disabilities Act-compatible unit in a building that matched the scale of surrounding homes, and we didn’t want to exceed the two-and-a-half story limits that’s in current zoning.”
There are concerns that allowing three units on a residential lot would dramatically increase the population density in the city and lead to the destruction of neighborhoods. Most lots in Minneapolis are zoned for single-family homes, and this would allow homeowners to turn a garage, basement, or attic into a separate apartment. If approved, Minneapolis could become the national leader among cities looking to increase the so-called “missing middle” – small-scale, multifamily housing like duplexes and town homes. In addition to easing the city’s housing shortage, Worthington says this proposal would make Minneapolis more livable for its aging residents.
“Being close to family members or support systems like a faith community can make a big difference in how you age in place and what we believe is that, too, is from an equity standpoint that should not just be available to people who have high income,” Worthington said.