Upzoning is the city planning practice of increasing the zoning density within a certain neighborhood or area to raise the amount of people that an area can house. In December of 2018, the city of Minneapolis passed an ambitious upzoning plan to combat wealth disparity, housing inequality, and affordability issues that the city has been dealing with.
This plan, called Minneapolis 2040, is meant to continue the growth of the city, provide affordable housing for more people, create jobs, and overall, help more citizens benefit from Minneapolis’ economic surge.
Right now, according to the Minneapolis Post, more than 36% of all Minneapolis households are in a tight financial situation. As well, most new apartments in Minneapolis are unaffordable for almost half of the population. This has come at a time where Minneapolis’ population has surged.
According to a report by the twincities.com, Minneapolis has added 46,800 people to their population between 2010-2018, which is a growth rate of 12.2%. With this growth rate, it follows that housing will become less affordable due to the significant increase in demand. This lack of affordability is felt disproportionately by lower income households.
The Minneapolis 2040 plan includes two major new land-use changes to spur a growth in taller, bigger housing complexes.
To combat this problem, decision makers in Minneapolis decided that aggressive upzoning was the solution. It stands to reason that the more housing units are available, the cheaper housing will be. The Minneapolis 2040 plan includes two major new land-use changes to spur a growth in taller, bigger housing complexes. These changes are to allow new three-to-six story buildings over transit corridors, and to eliminate single family zoning, and allow housing of up to three units.
The big change here is the elimination of single family zoning. Single family zoning blocks areas from building any type of house that isn’t a detached single family home. This type of zoning is great for building out residential areas for higher income households, but if there is a housing crisis, it heavily reduces the amount of people that one neighborhood can hold.
Minneapolis eliminating this type of zoning seems likely to increase the population density of neighborhoods. It stands to reason that the more housing there is, the cheaper housing is.
While this is a change that is the right idea, there are some flaws that indicate that housing affordability might not change. For one, according to the Minneapolis Post, three quarters of Minneapolis’ population lives in single-family homes. Since most of these people likely do not have any imminent plans to move, this change will take many years until the impact is felt.
What some homeowners can do is add an additional dwelling to their house and rent it out. While this is something that could be profitable for home-owners, it is expensive and difficult to do, so this isn’t something that will reliably bring about change.
Minneapolis is currently locked into a difficult situation with real estate, but they are at least searching for ways to fix it. If all the Minneapolis residents are to see the benefits of the economic growth and the growth of the population, then the housing situation needs to be fixed.
While upzoning isn’t a solution that will immediately fix every housing problem that Minneapolis has, the Minneapolis 2040 plan is something that has the potential to bring about positive change. Residents of all cities deserve housing that isn’t beyond their means, and upzoning might move Minneapolis in that direction.