Minneapolis looks at inclusionary zoning

Minneapolis is poised to join other nearby cities in integrating affordable housing mandates aimed at diversifying its housing stock and boosting equity amid demand for lower rents.
City Council Member Lisa Bender on Friday introduced an effort to tie inclusionary zoning into Minneapolis’ housing policy. Such a plan would mirror other cities’ efforts to require developers to set lower rents for a portion of units in their multifamily properties.
Private developers across the country have balked at similar policies, with many saying they limit the financial viability of multifamily projects. Still, cities are increasingly considering such mandates.
While Minneapolis’ planning process is in its earliest stages, Bender said Tuesday that the city would look to its neighbors as case studies.
St. Louis Park and Edina recently made moves to rejigger their assessments of multifamily project proposals to factor in affordable units. The policy in Edina – which sets affordability thresholds for complexes that require rezoning – could be a model, Bender said.
“I actually think that’s a great strategy. When you rezone properties, you often increase their value,” she said. “If we are going to increase the value of your land through this zoning change, it’s reasonable to ask for something back for the public good.”
Overall, the goal is to shape an effective strategy to shake up Minneapolis’ housing stock. Proponents say existing affordability-oriented policies – including a mandate on affordable units in projects receiving city aid and a little-used density bonus – are not doing enough to prop up tenants as rents rise.
Minneapolis hasn’t taken direct action yet, and won’t settle on a plan for a while. But throughout next year, it will lean on U.S. Census and other housing data, and piggyback on outside research, to map out its approach.
A new data-gathering tool unveiled by the city staff last month will provide a platform for discussions and greater insight into the city’s housing needs ahead of an anticipated population boom. In addition, Minneapolis could leverage broader research on mixed-income feasibility funded in part by the Metropolitan Council.
An inclusionary zoning push complements other initiatives driven by Bender to loosen the Minneapolis housing market.
In recent years, she has paved the way for “accessory dwelling units” – or having a second small home on the same lot as a larger one, a sought-after option for multigenerational and larger families. She also pitched a plan to relax parking requirements for residential projects.
“This is taking it one step farther in seeing if we can encourage or require subsidized housing,” Bender said.

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New data tool will shape Minneapolis housing plan
Edina sets new affordable housing standards
A shift to inclusionary zoning

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