Final Update on Minneapolis Built Form Zoning Regulations

Over the last two months, Neighbors for More Neighbors has been taking action as Minneapolis City Council updated zoning rules to align with the Minneapolis 2040 Plan. We organized around this issue because zoning rules have a major impact on the number of homes that can be built in our city. Here is the update with the results from the City Council. 

On December 18, the Minneapolis City Council voted to adopt the built form ordinances as amended and passed by the Business, Inspections, Housing and Zoning Committee on December 8. The agenda from the December 18 full City Council meeting with links to meeting video are here:

Here are the adopted premiums now part of Minneapolis zoning ordinances:

Affordability housing floor area premium:  A floor area ratio premium of one-tenth (0.1) per unit, not counting the first unit, shall be authorized for two- and three-family dwellings or congregate living uses with two (2) or three (3) dwelling or rooming units when at least one (1) of the units are affordable to and occupied by a household(s) with an income at or below sixty (60) percent of the area median income, which the city currently defines as about $1,086 for a studio, $1,164 for a one bedroom, $1,396 for a two bedroom, and $1,613 for a three bedroom. Here is a table showing how this would be applied: 

Environmental sustainability floor area premium: In the Interior 2 and Interior 3 Districts, a floor area ratio premium of one-tenth (0.1) shall be authorized for two- and three-family dwellings or congregate living uses with two (2) or three (3) dwelling or rooming units when the building is certified as environmentally sustainable. Here is a table showing how this would be applied: 

Important note:  These two premiums can “stack” in Int 3 and Int 2, but in Int 1, since the Env. Sustainability premium is not offered there. Here’s the premium full text. Here is how these two premiums would be applied in the different Interior zones: 

What changed:

Affordability incentives city-wide: In the city’s original draft, premiums incentivizing affordable buildings were NOT allowed to be applied to single, duplex and triplex buildings, which meant there was no affordability incentive for buildings in Interior zones 1 and 2, the whitest and wealthiest parts of the city. The affordability premium above is one that can now be applied in these zones.  This premium isn’t a perfect solution, but it is a win and it is important that our city is encouraging affordable homes city-wide, and not just in the places that already have the most affordable housing.

Commitment to track and analyze efficacy of adopted ordinances: On Dec 28th when the Council adopted the built form ordinances they also adopted an amendment directing staff in the Community Planning and Economic Development department to report to the Zoning & Planning Cmte of the City Council in early 2022 with data that will help evaluate how the new FAR ordinances are working. The data that comes out of this direction could be useful as we advocate for better ordinances in the future.

What didn’t change:

FAR is not larger for duplexes and triplexes by right: FAR limits are not higher for duplexes and triplexes in Interior zones by right, as we had been advocating for and as was recommended by the Planning Commission, they are only higher as a premium in exchange for at least one affordable unit and/or sustainable building. Here is the FAR limits for buildings that don’t qualify for the affordability or sustainability premiums:

Minimum lot size: The Planning Commission had lowered the minimum lot sizes to 5,000 square feet across the board, but the City Council did not adopt this.

Incremental infill: No action was taken to allow incremental infill of additional units without tearing down an existing home.

What comes next:

The work we did was important, and it made a real difference. The Council didn’t enact everything we advocated for, but the change we were able to affect is progress. The update of the zoning code will have many cycles, and we will continue to track future updates and opportunities to push for other parts of our recommendations. The advocacy we’ve done and the relationships we’ve built over this advocacy push are going to help us continue to make positive change in the future.

Thank you to all the volunteers and organizations who worked with us over the past few months. We hope we can continue to count on all these voices in future advocacy work.