Two new townhomes proposed in Dinkytown, neighbors concerned about affordability

If approved by the City Council, two townhomes will replace single family houses among neighborhood concerns about the changing character of Dinkytown.

The steeple of Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church peeks over a rise in the Marcy Holmes neighborhood on Tuesday, Jan. 28, 2020. The neighborhood provides housing for a significant number of University students.

Kamaan Richards

The steeple of Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church peeks over a rise in the Marcy Holmes neighborhood on Tuesday, Jan. 28, 2020. The neighborhood provides housing for a significant number of University students.

by Hanna Van Den Einde

Two new housing structures that will require rezoning have been proposed in Dinkytown amid neighbors’ concerns about the increase of rental prices and loss of the character of the area.

The townhomes will be marketed toward students at market-rate prices and they will have 24 bedrooms each, instead of up to five. Many Marcy-Holmes residents are upset with the rezoning of the area because it will increase the density of the area and the average rent.

Chris Lautenschlager, the executive director of the Marcy-Holmes Neighborhood Association, said many neighbors are frustrated with the loss of naturally occurring affordable housing, which are units that are naturally priced lower than the market rate. Lautenschlager said Dinkytown has become more populated by students within the last few decades.

“Some of these houses that are a little bit older have generally been more affordable than these newer buildings that have taken their place,” Lautenschlager said. “There’s been such a large demographic shift on the east side of Marcy-Holmes over the last 30 years.”

The two planned townhomes will replace single-family houses at 715 13th Ave. SE and 716 12th Ave. SE and each development will have four units with six bedrooms. The first property was approved by the planning commission Oct. 18, and it will go to the full City Council on Nov. 19. The second property will go to the planning commission on Nov. 15.

Since the properties will be dramatically increasing in occupancy, they will require rezoning, or changing the purpose of the area.

Peter Crandall, the senior city planner on the project at 715 13th Ave. SE, said rezoning the site will allow for more units and up to three stories in the new house.

“The main thing that it does is it allows you to build a multifamily building,” Crandall said. “You can build a more dense project so you can accommodate more people on the site by building a building with more dwelling units and more bedrooms.”

Barbara Camm, one of the founders of Preserve Historic Dinkytown, said she was upset by the loss of character and naturally occurring affordable housing in the area.

“One of the misapprehensions is that rents will go down with more of these large scale buildings and have even more affordable housing,” Camm said. “But rents of these new buildings are at market rate.”