Because land-use decisions are typically made plot by plot, the voice of NIMBYs in the decision-making process gets artificially amplified. Even folks who are otherwise supportive of more housing in their cities want to keep it out of their backyards. More development for thee, but not for me.
One way to resolve this problem is to comprehensively update the regulations for an entire municipality: if everyone shares in the benefits of increased housing supply in a city, then all parts of the city should be made open for development.
This is the logic behind the Minneapolis 2040 plan, perhaps the most ambitious comprehensive update to a city’s zoning codes in the country to date. The plan is not due for a vote until December 7, but it’s likely to pass. Here are a few of the housing-related highlights from the plan:
- Highest density (10 stories or more) housing will be allowed in the downtown area;
- Allow multifamily housing along certain public transit routes, with greater density along certain high-frequency routes and METRO stations;
- Allow new housing to be constructed in neighborhoods close to downtown;
- Increase the allowable housing density from mostly single-family homes to three housing units per lot.
Effectively, Minneapolis has done away with R-1 (single-family) zoning.
All the YIMBY advocates in one of the Twin Cities deserve credit, and the MVP of this soon-to-be success story is Mayor Jacob Frey, who has been committed to increasing housing supply through more inclusive zoning regulations.
Overall, the document is quite progressive in its goals. It aims to address serious concerns about homelessness, racial disparities in economic outcomes, and climate change, but recognizes the way to address these problems is to (in part) let the market do what it does best for housing construction.