Minneapolis has consigned single-family housing to the zoning scrap heap in a plan its advocates say will address housing segregation and a shortage of affordable housing.
The Minneapolis City Council, made up of 12 Democrats and one Green Party member, voted Dec. 7 to allow duplexes and triplexes in every neighborhood in the city. The change makes Minneapolis one of the first cities in America to approve such a change on a citywide basis, The New York Times reported.
However, that might change.
In Oregon, Democratic House Speaker Tina Kotek of Portland wants to push through a law covering every community of more than 10,000 people that would allow for multiple-occupancy dwellings to be built be built on land currently zoned for single-family housing, according to Willamette Week.
“The state’s housing crisis requires a combination of bolder strategies,” Kotek said in a statement. “Oregon needs to build more units, and we must do so in a way that increases housing opportunity for more people. Allowing more diverse housing types in single family neighborhoods will increase housing choice and affordability, and that’s a fight that I’m willing to take on.”
The drumbeat to attack single-family zoning was captured by writer Noah Smith in a Bloomberg commentary piece that called single-family zoning an “urban dinosaur” and drew heavily on the racial aspect of zoning.
“There’s also a racial dimension to the inequality that exclusionary zoning creates. Black families, which tend to earn less money, are kept out of white neighborhoods by their inability to afford the sprawling homes that cities mandate be built there. In fact, single-family zoning might have even been invented for just this purpose, as part of a large raft of approaches that cities used to keep higher-earning whites segregated from generally lower-earning black residents after race-based zoning was struck down by the Supreme Court in 1917,” he wrote.
Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey alluded to the racial justice aspect of zoning in his comments on the city’s new policy
“Minneapolis is not alone in being a city with a history of intentional segregation,” he told The Times. “I’m hopeful that we’re not alone in undoing it.”
Others said the situation is simply a reaction to the lack of housing in the city.
Between 50 and 60 percent of Minneapolis is zoned for single-family occupancy, according to The Times.
“We don’t have enough homes for people who want to live here,” City Council President Lisa Bender told the newspaper. “Increasing our housing supply is part of the solution.”
Not everyone agrees.
Lisa McDonald, a former council member, called for a slower approach to assess the impact of the change before making it, and to phase it in.
“We’ve tried very hard to work with the city to say, ‘Let’s find a rational approach to this,’” she said, according to The Times. “And instead, what the city has basically done is say, ‘If you’re not for this plan, you’re a racist and an elitist.’”
The city’s plan will be reviewed by regional planers and is expected to take effect next year.
Frey said he thinks the plan will succeed.
“Sometimes the only thing people hate worse than the status quo is any change at all,” he told The Times. “Efforts to allow for a beautiful diversity of people throughout our city and in every neighborhood didn’t end with Brown v. Board of Education.”
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