Proposed Minneapolis zoning overhaul could alter campus housing landscape

A comprehensive plan released by the City of Minneapolis could bring “fourplexes” to residential neighborhoods across the city.

by J.D. Duggan

Four-unit apartment buildings could appear in residential neighborhoods near the University of Minnesota if a proposed city zoning overhaul gains momentum.

The Minneapolis 2040 Comprehensive Plan is a draft for widespread changes throughout the city, including a massive zoning overhaul. The proposal, released last week, would alter single and two-family zoning districts to allow for the development of “fourplexes.”

“In housing development, we end up talking about the missing middle: where we have single-family homes, we have gigantic towers and then it’s very hard to … get anything built that’s in between. A lot of what this is … about [is] making it a lot easier to build that in-between,” said Ward 3 City Council Member Steve Fletcher. 

The City of Minneapolis’ 2040 plan was written as a plan to guide the growth and change of Minneapolis. The Metropolitan Council estimates the region will house an additional 700,000 people over the next 20 years.

Supporters of the zoning proposal say fourplexes would provide more housing options for residents. Apartments in the Twin Cities metro area have a vacancy rate of just 2.4 percent, according to a report released by Marquette Advisors in the fourth quarter of 2017.

“There’s potential that it could probably create more affordable options for students,” Ward 2 City Council Member Cam Gordon said. 

But Gordon said appropriate regulations must be enforced to ensure units stay affordable. “Without some good regulations, it could also just end up creating more high-end housing,” he said.

Gordon elaborated on his concerns, citing an instance where the City eased regulations on developments in areas like Stadium Village.

“A lot of housing was so expensive [for students],” Gordon said. “I think people are still charging the same or probably more with the duplexes and triplexes that are there.”

Vince Netz, president and CEO of the Prospect Park Association, said the neighborhood welcomes the addition of fourplexes in “the right place.” 

“We support density,” Netz said, adding that residents want the amenities that come with new development, like grocery stores or retail business.

But Netz said new development must not come at the loss of affordable housing. 

“Outside investors could come in and tear down a very affordable house and build a fourplex, and that means that it precludes the affordability of single-family houses. That is something we definitely don’t want to happen,” he said. 

But 138 acres of Prospect Park are designated on the National Register of Historic Places, protecting homes in the zone from demolition.

Other goals listed in the Minneapolis 2040 plan include reducing disparities, increasing affordable and accessible housing and creating “living-wage” jobs.

The plan is currently in the drafting stage, which means the next three months are dedicated to community feedback through the Minneapolis 2040 website and public meetings. Both Gordon and Fletcher urge their constituents to share any feedback.

“When you write a plan for the whole city, sometimes you miss the details on one particular block. If that’s the block you live on, you’re going notice it, so we need you to come point it out to us,” Fletcher said.