Moments ago I submitted some last-minute, under the wire comments on the Minneapolis 2040 draft comprehensive plan. And I will continue to do so, throughout the day, as the situation merits, right up until the deadline.
YOU CAN KEEP COMMENTING ALL DAY –TODAY– SUNDAY, JULY 22!
Interior 1 doesn’t go far enough. Homes already exist in these neighborhoods that exceed what would be allowed under Interior 1. The minimum designation in Minneapolis should be Interior 2.
Areas that are currently designated Interior 1 should be changed to Interior 2. Areas that are Interior 2 should be changed to Interior 3. Areas that are Interior 3 should have their maximum height raised from three to __ stories.
Or you could simply say:
Exclusionary zoning is dumb and terrible. I can’t believe we still do that. Please let people live their lives, even if that means four households occupying a four-unit house instead of just one family.
But there are so many more comments for you to send — and today is your last day to send them!
Minneapolis is growing. People want to live here. Businesses are hiring workers here. A Minneapolis with many more people needs many more homes — otherwise a lot of people will be displaced. Those homes shouldn’t all be in big expensive single-family homes or big expensive apartment buildings. We need less expensive triplexes and fourplexes, and small apartment buildings too. In order to make that happen we need a zoning code that allows those small-scale homes to happen. We need to legalize housing.
But that’s not all. In a majority renter city, we need policies that support and protect renters, people who are disproportionately low-income, indigenous or people of color. We need a transportation plan that prioritizes people, not just cars. We need to recognize that single-family zoning isn’t just exclusionary, but promotes car-dependence and sprawl that does grave damage to our climate.
Don’t know what a Comprehensive Plan is? Read this.
Some charts and maps to consider as we close in on the comment deadline for the draft of the Minneapolis 2040 comprehensive plan. You have until July 22 to comment at minneapolis2040.com! Minneapolis and its neighbors are adding more people than places for those people to live.A housing shortage is a game of musical chairs that hurts those with the least money. The next Minneapolis comprehensive plan needs to help us shift that equation in Minneapolis and set an example for neighboring cities.
These charts show how the Minneapolis and St. Paul are losing the sort of housing that is least expensive: 2, 3, and 4-unit homes. Why? Because zoning codes make them illegal to build on the vast majority of residential land.
Minneapolis lost over 6,000 duplex/triplex/4plex units since 1990. The city added around 2,500 single-family homes in same period
St. Paul lost about 3,300 duplex/triplex/fourplex units since 1990. The city gained around 2,000 single-family homes in same period.
The FHA promoted zoning as an effective tool for assuring a “homogenous and harmonious neighborhood.” In the view of the FHA, however, zoning was not enough to accomplish the segregation of races as a means to protecting property values. The FHA underwriting manual made the case for racially restrictive covenants, using language that described people of color as undesirable neighbors in the same vein as nuisances such as odor and high traffic.
In case you missed this post from a few days ago, here’sa chart breaking out Minneapolis residents by renter/owner and income. The low-income, cost-burdened renters are disproportionately people of color; they’re also far less likely to receive a housing subsidy than the high-income homeowners.
This map from Scott Shaffer debunks the notion that low-density zoning keeps the bulldozers away. Right now under existing zoning in Minneapolis, homes are bulldozed and replaced with larger single-family homes — we make it illegal to build anything else. We could choose to allow homes that are cheaper to build, rent, and own. Instead, we’ve chosen expensive housing.
If you aren’t yet fed up with exclusionary zoning, watch my award-eligible documentary film “It’s Always Single-Family in the Twin Cities.”
There’s just one week left in the comment period for the draft Minneapolis 2040 Comprehensive Plan! Concerned residents assured me it would be shoved down our throats, but I’m not sure my throat could handle a lengthier process. Leave your comments at minneapolis2040.com until July 22. The city will spend a few months synthesizing that feedback into a new draft to be released in late September.
Below I have compiled the latest news on the comprehensive plan, including two presentations to City Council committees earlier this week.
Innovative Housing Types. Minneapolis city planner Brian Schaffer (RIP) says that “innovative housing types” aren’t new. Single room occupancy, accessory dwelling units, co-housing–those are all concepts that are “ages and ages old.” What happened? We banned them.
In a presentation to the Housing Policy and Development Committee, Schaffer showed council members this chart:
Schaffer highlighted these points in his presentation:
Largest segment on the chart are the 47,000 homeowner households making greater than 100% area median income ($94,300/yr).
Second biggest: 31,000 renter households making less than 30% AMI ($28,300/yr).
19,000 of those households are severely cost burdened (spending more than 50% of income on housing)
6,000 are cost burdened (spending more than 30% of income on housing)
People under 30% AMI are majority POC and majority renter – and “disproportionately both.”
Which of those groups have their housing subsidized? To a much greater degree it’s the high-income homeowner households, says the city’s housing director, Andrea Brennan.
In response to what I thought was an illuminating chart, City Council Member Lisa Goodman told Brian Schaffer: “I don’t need a planning degree to know that people at 30% or lower of the MMI are cost-burdened.” (The acronym for area median income is AMI, and the over-educated Brian Schaffer refused to correct her, even though it was his last week at work and he could have just said “I’m too old for this shit” and given the entire council double-fisted middle fingers.)
FLASHBACK: Lisa Goodman told an economist the same thing about his economics degree in 2016 when she was agitating against an academic study, commissioned by the city, that showed benefits to raising the minimum wage.
There’s a climate change opportunity in adding more commercial zoning in Minneapolis, says city planner Paul Mogush. Nationally, 45% of trips are for shopping, while 15-20% are trips to work. Mogush says, “Based on some research that we’ve done, we know that people in Minneapolis are spending a lot of their retail dollars outside city limits, so there’s an opportunity to capture more of that inside the city of Minneapolis.”
Council President Lisa Bender asked a question about small storefronts in neighborhood interiors that “have been made illegal over time in the zoning code.” Mogush said they’re trying to legitimize existing commercial uses, but gave no indication there would be allowances for more. (Idea: you could send feedback to minneapolis2040.com to ask for more small storefronts in neighborhood interiors).
Looking for a Minneapolis 2040 policy overview? Read this series from Neighbors for More Neighbors. And some thoughts from Our Streets Minneapolis. I livetweeted Wednesday’s Minneapolis 2040 info session. One attendee said the meeting left them feeling “ashamed to be alive.” Lisa Bender told the crowd of longtime residents, “You can boo me but I will continue to pause and wait.” Heather Worthington, the city’s director of Long Range Planning, at one point surrendered the microphone to a resident who continually interrupted her answer. Read the whole thread here.
This has maybe been asked about doomsday cults before, but what are these people gonna do for fun after this is over and the world doesn’t explode?
Council Member Jeremy Schroeder, chair of the Zoning & Planning Committee, released this FAQ to tamp down an explosion of panic and misinformation.
ICYMI: I published a post in response to an explosion of panic and misinformation–and apocalyptic yard signs. Start practicing your impassioned speeches. In a committee hearing earlier this week, Lisa Goodman, who is the council’s most vocal critic of the draft, said she was eager for a public hearing in front of the full City Council, instead of just at the City Planning Commission.
It’s a maddening time lately, with political actors denying obvious truths and using scare tactics to sidestep honest dialogue. In any debate about change, political winds favor the side with the simple message: NO. It’s easy to fearmonger, deceive, and put words on lawn signs that conjure impending annihilation.
I like to think Minneapolis is better than that. In Minneapolis we recognize real problems and act to solve them. We recognize that housing is in short supply and unacceptably expensive for too many of our neighbors. We recognize that climate change is real, and is driven by lifestyles made necessary by our region’s sprawling, auto-oriented development patterns. We recognize that nobody should have opportunity limited by the fact they can’t afford to live in the right neighborhood.
To foster an honest conversation about the Minneapolis 2040 Comprehensive Plan, let’s focus on this widely recognized fact: Minneapolis doesn’t have enough homes. MPR reports that the fabled “starter home” is disappearing from the Twin Cities due to a combination of factors: “land, laws, labor, and lumber.” For the sake of conversation, here’s a few examples of things affecting the cost housing:
Energy efficiency standards substantially add to the cost of a new home
Land on which to build new homes is made more expensive because of growth boundaries
Restrictions in zoning codes all across the Twin Cities prevent building “twin homes” (or fourplexes, or apartments, or anything that’s not a single-family home) that share a wall and sell for much less than an equivalent single-family home
No doubt, there are trade-offs: someone who values action to fight climate change will probably support energy efficiency standards and growth boundaries–believing sustainability is worth the added housing cost. Sometimes an action can tick off multiple priorities at once: easing density restrictions and parking requirements will move us away from the expensive, auto-oriented, exclusively single-family neighborhoods that dominate most of the Twin Cities. It’s not unheard of — even for a person with a garage — to list abundant street parking as their number one value (because we’re having an honest conversation, please don’t be ashamed to say it out loud).
What are the values served by saying the most walkable and transit-accessible areas in the state of Minnesota must be dominated by low-density, auto-oriented uses? What are the values served by saying these areas must always and forever be reserved for ever-larger single-family homes?
We’ve inherited a system, a legacy of redlining, that’s left us with increasingly exclusive neighborhoods. It’s a system where not being able to afford the neighborhood you want means you can’t afford access to a good public school; or to be near grocery stores and other amenities; or to keep yourself and your family safe from dirty air, soil, and water. It’ll take a lot more to undo that legacy, but ending exclusionary zoning is a necessary step.
They are using the word “extinction” to defend legal requirements forcing (usually large) single family homes as the only land use in huge swaths of our city, which virtually requires people to drive cars nearly everywhere they go.
I’ve previously written that the Minneapolis 2040 plan is bold. But it’s only bold when judged against the low expectations set by generations of misguided policies. We’ve been numbed into thinking what we’ve been doing for decades is our only choice.
Allowing up to four families to live in a house the size of a large single-family home isn’t bold. It’s not bold to legalize three-story apartment buildings in neighborhoods adjacent to downtown. It’s not bold to allow many more people to live along major transit corridors. These are all modest changes, and the very least we should be doing to give ourselves a fighting chance at a better future.
Instead of rejecting the idea of change and holding dearly to an unsustainable status quo, I hope you’ll seek out facts about the Minneapolis 2040 Comprehensive Plan. Tell the city council what you value.