Will the fourplex solve Minneapolis' housing problem?

The Minneapolis 2040 draft plan was released on Thursday.
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A fourplex conversion in Oregon.

A fourplex conversion in Oregon.

What's happening?

The City of Minneapolis has released its draft plan for its next 20 years of growth.

Minneapolis 2040 went live as a website on Thursday and covers a huge-range of challenges, plans and goals for the city over the coming decades.

But all of the short and long-term changes for the city are underpinned by two key themes running throughout the strategy: a move towards racial equity and preparing for climate change.

You can find the plan here.

One of the areas of key interest for many of those living in Minnesota's largest city will be housing – owing to the serious supply shortage that is driving prices up and making it harder for the next generation to get on the ladder.

One of the proposed solutions to this has proved quite controversial already.

Enter, the fourplex

News that the city is keen to explore the possibility of altering zoning laws to boost housing density broke last month and has already been the subject of significant debate.

While the plan is for the highest-density development to be situated along bus and light rail transit lines, every neighborhood in the city will find their populations booming by 2040.

And the part of the plan generating most argument is the rewriting of zoning laws that would allow the building of fourplexes on any residential property in the city.

As the Star Tribune wrote earlier this month, current zoning prevents fourplexes from being built on more than 80 percent of city lots.

Among those already against the plan is city council member Andrew Johnson, who says it would cause the number of affordable starter homes in the city to plummet and those who will benefit the most will be investors who can afford to build fourplexes.

The draft plan however says increasing the density of the city is crucial, noting that Minneapolis has lost 15,000 affordable housing units since 2000, 

This has made living in the city particularly expensive for black residents, who have seen their median incomes drop 40 percent during that period.

How much development are we talking?

This land use map on the Minneapolis 2040 website provides some guidelines the city is looking at as it loosens zoning rules.

It splits up development levels depending on the neighborhood, ranging from areas earmarked for the lightest development (Interior 1) to the heaviest (Core 50 – ie. downtown).

But even in Interior 1 – the quiet back streets farthest away from downtown (the cream-colored areas on the map below) – the city is proposing multi-family housing developments of up to 4 units, provided they're no taller than 2.5 stories.

Minneapolis 2040

On narrow-street transit routes, think Cedar Avenue in South Minneapolis and University Avenue in Northeast, residential development could be anything up to four stories – and can be even taller should the city approve.

And on the busiest transit routes like Hennepin Avenue in Uptown, the intention is for moderate-to-large scale developments of up to 6 stories.

You can check out what the plan is for where you live by clicking  here.

The release of the plan will spark a series of public meetings through July, with online comments taken ahead of the plan being put before Minneapolis City Council for consideration.

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