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Tempering the Expectations for the Minneapolis 2040 Plan

The ability of the landmark Minneapolis 2040 plan, which adds density in various forms all over the city, to solve the cities climbing housing prices and growing lack of affordable housing, might have been exaggerated.
June 7, 2019, 6am PDT | James Brasuell | @CasualBrasuell
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Downtown Minneapolis Streetscape

Jessica Lee revisits the Minneapolis 2040 Comprehensive Plan to ask key questions about how much the new plan, once it is implemented by the city, can be expected to address the growing housing affordability crisis in the city.

But first, Lee's summary of the Minneapolis 2040 plan, in case you missed it back when the plan was approved:

In December, the City Council approved its long-term plan for development, Minneapolis 2040, which made Minneapolis the first major U.S. city to eliminate single-family zoning all together. The move was celebrated by local residents who see increased density as key to the city’s housing inequalities while attracting the attention of the national media and housing-rights activists who think other metros should follow Minneapolis’ lead to increase residential density.

According to Lee, the plan raises one fundamental question: "If, or to what extent, will the elimination of single-family neighborhoods actually help with housing affordability in Minneapolis?"

As Lee notes, the plan envisions two basic changes to the planning regime in the city: allowing more residential density along transit corridors and eliminating single-family zoning to allow for up to three units on every residential parcel.

Lee finds experts and advocates who make the case that those efforts, and especially the elimination of single-family zoning, won't be enough to help low-income residents of the city.

Other reasons to question the comprehensive plan's ability to drastically alter the current affordability crisis, according to the article, is the long-term timeline that the plan, and any resulting zoning changes, will require to make a noticeable mark on the city. The timeline will be measured in decades, according to Lee.

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