Facing an affordability crisis, the city will weigh zoning changes that would permit duplexes and other multifamily housing types in single-family neighborhoods.

2 minute read

April 17, 2023, 6:00 AM PDT

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction

An image of St. Paul, Minnesota and the Mississippi River at nightfall.

Paul Brady Photography / Shutterstock

A proposed update to St. Paul, Minnesota’s zoning code would allow the construction of more housing types in a city that faces a shortage of roughly 80,000 housing units, reports Frederick Melo in Pioneer Press.

According to Melo, 72 percent of residentially zoned land in the city is zoned for single-family homes, and one-third of the city’s housing stock is made up of large apartment buildings. What’s missing is mid-sized multifamily housing known as ‘missing middle housing,’ which housing advocates say can help boost the supply of available housing units while preserving neighborhood character and limiting the strain on local infrastructure. In 2017, duplexes, triplexes, and fourplexes comprise just 11 percent of St. Paul housing. “From 2000 to 2017, the number of duplexes decreased by 17%, and triplexes and fourplexes decreased by 11%.”

Zoning reforms are recommended by the city’s ‘1-to-4 Unit Infill Zoning Housing Study,’ which assesses ways to increase housing affordability and provide more housing options for St. Paul residents. Melo details the proposed changes, which include consolidating zoning districts, a special density bonus for ‘workforce housing,’ changes in lot size requirements, and new rules for development near transit stations. 

Housing advocates say the proposed changes are a step in the right direction. “Pointing to the homeownership gap between whites and Blacks, Isaac Russell, a policy director with the Center for Economic Inclusion, called the zoning proposal ‘an important first step’ and ‘an essential reimagining of how we build our city.’”

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