Minneapolis Housing Plan a Success—Not for the Reason You Think

Housing advocates praise the city’s move to eliminate single-family zoning by legalizing triplexes on single-family lots, but that isn’t why housing construction is growing.

May 13, 2022, 6:00 AM PDT

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction


Twin Cities

Gian Lorenzo Ferretti / Shutterstock

Christian Britschgi, writing in Reason, claims that the construction boom in Minneapolis is unrelated to the city's decision to remove single-family zoning. “Housing production is up, and rents do indeed appear to be falling. But the effects of Minneapolis' particular means of eliminating single-family-only zoning, and allowing up to triplexes on residential land citywide, have been exceedingly modest.”

Britschgi writes that “from January 2020 through March 2022, Minneapolis approved 62 duplexes and 17 triplexes, according to data collected by the city's Department of Community Planning and Economic Development (CPED). Exactly half of the duplexes and 14 of the triplexes were built on lots that were once zoned for exclusively single-family development.”

“But these two- and three-unit developments still represent a tiny fraction of the roughly 9,000 housing units the city permitted during that same time period.” Emily Hamilton, a housing policy researcher at George Mason University's Mercatus Center, says other constraints prevent the widespread construction of duplexes and triplexes. “There are also restrictions on how large that lot has to be, how large that structure has to be, how much parking is required, and how far a structure has to be from its lot line.” Changes to these policies, says Britschgi, have a more significant impact on new housing production. “[Jason Wittenberg, a planner with CPED] credits the city's elimination of parking minimums—which had typically required one parking spot per housing unit—with facilitating increased construction of smaller apartment buildings.”

Like Minneapolis, cities around the country are moving to reduce or eliminate minimum parking requirements to encourage denser transit-oriented development and bring down the cost of housing production.

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