Take Action: Support Increased ADU Heights

January 20, 2020

Image courtesy of Alyssa Lee Photography for Christopher Strom Architects

As part of the Minneapolis 2040 plan, the City has encouraged additional “accessory dwelling units” (ADUs) in Minneapolis. What is an ADU? Essentially, a separate apartment that’s added on the same lot as an existing home. You may have heard them referred to as “mother-in-law units” when added to a main home, or occasionally “carriage houses” when stand-alone.

ADUs are an excellent way of gently adding more homes into existing single family neighborhoods, and allows people to bring in extra income by taking renters, or to more easily create a multi-generational living situation. There is one problem: the current policy for ADUs makes them very difficult to implement on many lots in Minneapolis.

Current policy requires these ADU homes to be shorter than the main building on the same lot. (See this primer for why that’s an issue.) Further, the city doesn’t even allow a variance for ADU height to be taller than the main building. This means that many smaller homes in Minneapolis are ineligible to add ADUs, and it creates an incentive for bungalow teardowns rather than building additional space on the property. 

As part of the 2040 Plan zoning changes, ADU height is being revisited now. The Planning Commission is currently hesitant to allow homes on the back of a lot to exceed the height of the home on the front (street-facing) of the lot. We need your help to encourage the Planning Commission to create more fairness among homes and ease the tight restrictions that currently discourage homeowners who want to build more homes from doing so.

How to help

Send a short email in support of this policy change (even two or three sentences will do) to the planner for this effort, plus your City Council member (see list below). This policy’s next hearing/vote will be on February 10th, so make sure to get your email in reasonably in advance of that. The meeting agenda is not available.

Andrew Liska (Sr. City Planner) Andrew.Liska@minneapolismn.gov (612) 673-2264 

Kevin Reich (Northeast, Ward 1) kevin.reich@minneapolismn.gov (612) 673-220
Cam Gordon (Ward 2, Author of Policy change) cam.gordon@minneapolismn.gov (612) 673-2202
Steve Fletcher (Downtown, Ward 3) steve.fletcher@minneapolismn.gov 612-673-2203
Phillipe Cunningham (North, Ward 4) phillipe.cunningham@minneapolismn.gov (612) 673-2204
Jeremiah Ellison (North, west of downtown, Ward 5) jeremiah.ellison@minneapolismn.gov 612-673-2205
Abdi Warsame (South of Downtown, Ward 6) abdi.warsame@minneapolismn.gov 612-673-2206
Lisa Goodman (West-Mid, Ward 7) lisa.goodman@minneapolismn.gov 612-673-2207
Andrea Jenkins (Along 35W, Ward 8) andrea.jenkins@minneapolismn.gov 612-673-2208
Alondra Cano (Central, Ward 9) alondra.cano@minneapolismn.gov 612-673-2209
Lisa Bender (Lakes Area,Ward 10) lisa.bender@minneapolismn.gov 612-673-2210
Jeremy Schroeder (South,Ward 11) jeremy.schroeder@minneapolismn.gov 612-673-2211
Andrew Johnson (Minnehaha Falls area,Ward 12) andrew.johnson@minneapolismn.gov 612-673-2212
Linea Palmisano (Southwest, Ward 13) linea.palmisano@minneapolismn.gov 612-673-2213

Talking Points

  • I support the zoning change for taller ADUs and for ADUs to not be bound to main home height.
  • Taller homes should not have more rights to ADUs than smaller homes.
  • ADU rules are already very restrictive (max 676 sq ft 1st floor, max 1300 total)
  • A 21’ ADU is not disruptive to a neighborhood with 15’-35’ houses. 
  • You can see the neighbor behind a short house regardless, so why does a home on the same lot need to be so short?
  • Allowing more people to build viable ADUs supports Minneapolis 2040 goals, and encourages more homes in our neighborhoods.
  • Some neighborhoods are generally shorter than others, which means currently some neighborhoods can have more ADUs, this is unfair.