Minneapolis is the first city in the country to vote (12 yes – 1 no) to end single-family zoning restrictions. Yes, Portland OR “is working on a plan” to allow four-plexes in single-family neighborhoods and yes, Seattle “is considering rezoning 6% of its single-family neighborhoods” to include more housing BUT, Minneapolis is the first city in the country to actually vote in favor of ending single-family zoning restrictions.

This two-years-in-the-planning-stage proposal was spearheaded by Minneapolis 2040, a Twin Cities-based municipalities board charged with updating the city’s comprehensive master plan. The City Council’s vote to end single-family zoning is a way to address housing affordability and density.

In Minneapolis, 50% – 60% of the city is zoned for single-family use only. And, similar to other metros around the country, there is not enough housing for the people who want to live in that city due to both lack of supply and lack of affordability. “Increasing our home supply is part of the solution,” said Lisa Bender, president of the Minneapolis City Council.

It is hoped that this lack of affordability issue will be addressed by having the ability to build multifamily housing units in currently single-family neighborhoods. Multifamily housing is, sometimes, more affordable than single-family housing.

Currently, the population of approximately 400,000 in Minneapolis includes the following homeowner demographic groups: 60% whites own their own homes and 25% Hispanics African Americans, Native Americans own their own homes.

It is also hoped that addressing the affordability and supply issues Minneapolis as a whole will help to “chip away at the city’s history of intentional segregation,” said Bender.

Michael Lens, an associate professor for urban planning and public policy at the University of California at Los Angeles, said that the effect of ending single-family zoning in Minneapolis (or any other city for that matter), “…could take years to know whether of not these efforts will be successful…” in addressing supply, affordability and inequity issues. “Maybe the best measure of change would be no perceptible change at all.

Slate added its perspective on this vote to end single-family zoning as “…the most important housing reform in America…” that could be used “…as a blueprint that other cities could follow to curb high housing costs and sprawl.”

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