Question: How do you think the market rate housing development of the last several years has impacted Minneapolis?
Market rate housing development in our city has added density and helped our city grow to over 400K population for the first time since the mid 1970s. As we’ve grown the market has often added newly designed units with amenities that are highly desirable and attractive to younger professionals and baby boomers alike. Naturally, the demand for new development is removing some older, more moderately priced housing and affordability in many areas is a growing concern. The increase in units has importantly expanded our tax base, creating more tax dollars for the city without raising tax rates.
Question: What policies will you pursue to ensure an adequate supply of affordable housing in Minneapolis? Since state financing for affordable housing is limited, what additional funding sources would you seek? What are some alternative policies you’d pursue to remove barriers to housing affordability which would compensate for this lack of funding?
I believe everyone has a right to live in our city. Our long term dilemma is one of gentrification, and we need spaces carved out in every part of our city to ensure that we can develop and maintain affordable housing in Minneapolis. The city needs to look at ways (financing tools or other incentives) to incorporate more affordable housing in market rate developments, especially for seniors, and to make sure that housing stays affordable for a dedicated time period.
I sit on the SW LRT Community Works committee on behalf of Minneapolis. Twice we’ve discussed asking for legislation that would allow for TIFF enabled development along the light rail corridor. I have been a strong advocate (not yet successful) for making sure that when TIFF is used along this corridor, that it is for affordable housing. The light rail itself is an enormous attractor of development, and I feel strongly that the public purpose of TIFF is best suited for affordable housing and not commercial or market rate developments. Suburban representatives along this corridor are not yet convinced.
Another policy I’ve been in conversation about is how we could champion policy changes that would financially enable smaller developments of financially viable condo complexes. Right now, the MN Common Interest Ownership Act really constrains the financial feasibility of smaller condo complexes, and this makes smaller pockets of density that could be housing unfeasible. There are a lot of neighborhoods and areas of our city that could open up to this, and at more affordable housing kinds of prices, if revisions were made to this law.
(more info on what this is here: http://www.startribune.com/condo-law-backfires-on-housing-options/330006421/)
Question: The vast majority of Minneapolis is zoned exclusively for single-family homes, while most of the units we currently build are in large apartment buildings in or near downtown. Single-family homes and large apartment buildings tend to be more expensive per unit than missing middle housing (for example, a fourplex). How do we use the currently ongoing update to the Minneapolis Comprehensive Plan to allow a mix of housing types across Minneapolis that are less expensive to rent, own, and build?
Before we work to increase zoning in the Comp Plan update, we can do more to acknowledge and encourage development within the zoning that does already exist in many parts of our city including my ward. There are a lot of nonconforming use and underdeveloped areas with opportunities for fourplexes, etc. I think we should be flexible with density when the developer can agree to more affordable units, and I wonder how that might be incorporated into the next Comp Plan. Medium-sized development (like fourplexes) and the flexibility to convert SF to duplexes would provide a huge amount of flexibility and it deserves a close look.
Do you think there’s a place for light commercial spaces like small cafes and corner stores in neighborhood interiors? Do you believe there are other areas where restrictive zoning has led to worse outcomes for neighborhoods?
Most of our favorite places in Southwest Minneapolis are exactly these light commercial spaces within neighborhood interiors, and they are treasured. The last major upgrade of the code created this category understanding that some light commercial was beneficial to neighborhoods.
One way that restrictive zoning has led to worse outcomes for neighborhoods was the former Linden Hills Pedestrian Overlay (note: I led the effort to ‘modernize’ this two years ago). While long ago, this was thought to assist pedestrian-oriented business development, it required very onerous parking requirements that led to surface lots and depressed interest in commercial activity around the Linden Hills business nodes amongst other things. This particular, peculiar overlay required one new parking space for every three seats in a restaurant, for example. The move to a modern “pedestrian overlay” exhibits what we now consider more pedestrian-friendly. It was a huge lift with a fair amount of pushback, but it was the right thing to do.
Are there any other issues related to housing or zoning that you believe are important enough to address as a city council member? What specific policy goals would you pursue in this area?
As you know I am not a part of Zoning and Planning committee, but in my ward we need more opportunities to create spaces to age in place. We need more condos in the small pockets of dense zoning that exist (ex: 54th/Lyndale), we need accessory dwelling units, and while I am proud of the things we have done, there have been a lot of barriers to get there and we are not done realizing this vision. To grow our city, we will need to absorb our fair share. YIMBY means exhibiting this in my area of representation, I have a track record of doing so, and it involves having a spine, even when it is not politically convenient to advocate for a lot split, or a SF demo for R4, or a significant rezoning of commercial districts. I appreciate your following these conversations and broadcasting your review of them.
Given that most of my ward is zoned for single-family units, I am proud of the work I have done with 16 zoning code changes, a construction management agreement that reduces tension during construction next door, and a toolkit for residential neighbors of new construction. To me, this was about enabling more housing reinvestment across the city as much as it was allay issues with considerable change in Southwest Mpls.