New zoning policy to expand student housing affordability

Students who are eligible for Pell Grants are eligible for these units.

The inside of Minneapolis City Hall as seen on Thursday, Oct. 31, 2019.

Parker Johnson

The inside of Minneapolis City Hall as seen on Thursday, Oct. 31, 2019.

Caitlin Anderson

The Minneapolis City Council approved an affordable housing policy last week that expands eligibility for students. 

The new inclusionary zoning policy will allow students increased access to affordable units in new developments in University of Minnesota areas. City officials representing those areas worked with Minnesota Student Association advocates to widen the policy.

“My hope is that this will result in some of the first … designated affordable student housing that’s been built in decades,” said Ward 3 City Council member Steve Fletcher, who represents Dinkytown and Marcy-Holmes, at a press conference on Tuesday.

Earlier this year, the City Council approved an interim inclusionary zoning policy that excluded students altogether. Both Fletcher and Ward 2 City Council member Cam Gordon authored a recent amendment to the housing policy to expand the definition for student-eligible housing. 

Under the new policy, new residential development projects with 20 or more units apply. Developers who choose to designate their buildings as student-eligible housing would be required to make eight percent of bedrooms be affordable to those making 60 percent area median income. 

Students who are eligible for a Pell Grant will be eligible for these bedrooms  — something MSA representatives advocated for. Pell Grants are federal need-based grants for undergraduate students. 

“I’ve just heard so many stories about students struggling through their college career while they’re trying to pay housing,” said Rebecca Cowin, MSA’s local government and advocacy coordinator. “It’s important that even if we have new students coming in, we’re always going to be here. … We’re kind of advocating for the next generation of students that are living here.”

The policy goes into effect Jan. 1.