Thursday, March 29, 2018
After my initial foray into the citywide fourplex proposal, I began to take a closer look at my own surroundings. And as much as I want to exercise caution I became quite surprised at how little of north Minneapolis is zoned for multifamily housing compared to how much this part of the city could use such development.
For instance, from my place on 26th and Penn up to 30th Avenue North (which is only three blocks because the 2800 and 2900 blocks get jumbled together here), there are at least twenty-three city- or county-owned vacant parcels of land. All of them are zoned R1 residential, so without a variance only single-family homes can be built.
Penn Avenue North is a community corridor. It already has a mix of multi-family and single-family homes along the route, especially in this three-block stretch. North Minneapolis has bled density and needs to add more people back to our community. In fact, you can't rightly call Penn a commercial corridor because there isn't enough of a population to drive much commerce here. When Metro Transit surveys their ridership to see where its ridership is most dependent on busing as their primary mode of transportation, Penn's route (the 19) and its tributaries and parallels (the 5, 22, 14, among others) consistently come out near the top.
When you talk about areas that need density, we're it. When you talk about building housing for those without cars, the northside is not some trendy place where young college grads use the Uber to Lyft their Car2Go or whatever the kids are doing nowadays. People are riding the bus to do their laundry and grocery shopping because that's what they need to get by.
So looking at this zoning proposal in terms of racial equity and access to an affordable infrastructure of housing and transit, corridors like Penn and Lyndale, Emerson and Fremont Avenues North absolutely have to be the cornerstone of how communities can benefit. Because the next carless micro-unit building for college grads making sixty grand is not going to cut it.
With that in mind, my next round of number crunching was centered around this query: Were it not for the R1 zoning restriction throughout much of north Minneapolis, would we see an influx of multifamily investment? Or as some council members have posited, would that investment be focused in other areas even at the expense of existing housing stock?
Some of what I found seemed to support my predispositions and other data was more than a bit surprising.
Sunday, March 11, 2018
|Vacant land, multi-family, and single-family homes.|
|These parcels are likely already zoned for multi-family housing, but there are plenty of vacant lots around me that would benefit from the addition of 3-4 unit properties.|
"Well, the cat's out of the bag," said Council Member Lisa Bender regarding a proposal to relax zoning requirements practically citywide. The change could result in there being virtually no barriers - from a zoning perspective - to building a four-unit house throughout much of the city. To be honest, the prospective change excites me more than just about anything I've seen from our new council. But it is replete with possibilities to further exacerbate some of Minneapolis' worst problems even while it addresses rental housing shortages.
CM's Johnson and Gordon raised some of their own concerns, namely that the new ordinance could result in starter homes being priced out certain markets as the land beneath the home becomes worth enough for investors to purchase, demolish, and build anew. While this would add a net gain of housing units, it would come at the expense of first-time buyers and would not be the ideal way to roll out such a change.
I share those concerns, and worry that otherwise viable housing will be demolished in favor of new construction of fourplexes. If that dynamic becomes widespread, then I also worry that we will have a housing change that prices more owners out of south and northeast Minneapolis while passing over the swaths of already-vacant land in north. And then let's talk about who benefits and how. Obviously renters benefit from having more options available to them at (hopefully) affordable rates for quality housing. The communities around the new units get the benefits - and let's be honest, the drawbacks such as they are - of increased density. And the largest beneficiaries would the the new owners of the four-unit housing expansion.
I will be focusing on those two aspects of the proposal as this post proceeds - how to incorporate a zoning change in ways that minimize the demolition of viable homes and how to ensure that the largest windfalls that ownership provides are aimed at people and communities that have been historically marginalized.