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Twin Cities ADU Construction Slow, but Expected

Easing ADU regulations has led to some new construction in the Twin Cities, but the additional units have made a small dent in the area’s affordable housing problem.
May 6, 2019, 7am PDT | Camille Fink
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Twin Cities
Gian Lorenzo Ferretti

Jessica Lee and Greta Kaul take a closer look at accessory dwelling units in the Twin Cities and find that the numbers are still low. "Since 2015 — the first year in which Minneapolis residents could apply for permits following a new ordinance by the City Council — construction peaked in 2017 with 38 new ADUs. In total, the city has permitted 137 ADUs. They are on about 0.2 percent of single-family lots." St. Paul allowed ADU construction starting in 2016, and four have been built there.

The challenges for interested homeowners in the Twin Cities are similar to ones found in other cities: high construction costs, confusing regulations and permitting processes, and difficulties obtaining loans. Both cities have taken steps to make the process easier. St. Paul, for example, now allows ADU construction throughout the city rather than just in a restricted area. 

The role of ADUs in boosting available affordable housing in the Twin Cities remains to be seen, report Lee and Kaul:

In Portland there are ADUs on about 1.5 percent of single-family home lots, [Sarah] Berke said. In order to hit that benchmark Minneapolis would need about 1,200 ADUs, St. Paul would need 888, and the Twin Cities region would need about 11,000, according to a MinnPost analysis of MetCouncil data.

Still, local officials remain confident that ADU construction will pick up in the coming years with zoning reform and more calls for diversification of housing stock and increased density.

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