Analysis: Lots of Cheap Apartments Next to Expensive Apartments

Fancy new apartments: Are they expensive? We’ve heard they’re expensive. Pricing people out and ruining everything, etc. However, Minneapolis has just under 90,000 rental dwelling units. Many of them are not expensive. Some of them, in fact, are expensive but are actually located right next to ones that are not expensive. It should be noted that the idea of “expenses” and, really, of money and our entire economy generally, are merely social constructs.

The following analysis is not highly scientific. I generally picked the cheapest unit I could find in the new buildings and, with the old ones, picked what I could find. Many older buildings do not have easy to find websites, and some newer buildings do not list rents up front. Craigslist was prowled, but I was safe. This does not impact the findings of the study, which are significant.

Source: Streetview

Source: Streetview

Fancy new apartments: Elan Uptown
It replaced a: Lumberyard
Rent: 2 bedroom – $2,290/month
Literally next door: Dupont Court Apartments
Rent: 2 bedroom – $1,045/month
Though the fancy one has: A French name (Dupont also French) A dog washing station

Source: Streetview

Source: Streetview

Fancy new apartments: Loring VUE
It replaced a: Parking lot
Rent: 1 bedroom – $1,440/month
Literally across the street: Park Terrace Apartments
Rent: 1 bedroom – $760/month
Though the fancy one has: A Sauna

Source: Streetview

Source: Streetview

Fancy new apartments: Mill & Main
It replaced a: Gravel lot
Rent: 2 bedroom – $2,100/month
Literally across the General Mills parking lot: 301 University Avenue Southeast
Rent: 2 bedroom – $1,030/month (source: asked a friend)
Though the fancy one has: Business Centers

Source: Place Apartments

Source: Place Apartments

Fancy new apartments: LPM Apartments
It replaced a: Parking lot
Rent: 2 bedroom – $2521/month
Literally next door: Spruce Place Apartments
Rent: 2 bedroom – $950/month
Though the fancy one has: The “Magellan Rewards Program”

Source: Streetview

Source: Streetview

Fancy new apartments: Solhaus
It replaced a: Parking lot
Rent: Studio – $1,035/month
Literally across the street: Stadium Village Apartments
Rent: Studio – $675/month
Though the fancy one has: Fireside Study


Source: Streetview

Source: Streetview

Fancy new condos: Linden Crossing
It replaced a: Parking lot/Famous Dave’s
Estimated Mortgage: 2 bedroom – $3,864/month ($899,000 listed price)
Literally down the street: 2715 West 43rd Street
Rent: 2 bedroom – $995/month
Though the fancy one has: Cachet
And crazy: The entire older four story apartment building across the street is valued at $2,200,000, not too much (I guess) higher than some of the higher priced units at Linden Crossing

An anomaly I noticed while clicking around: there’s not much cheap stuff in the North Loop, because there was no North Loop neighborhood twenty or thirty years ago and almost all the housing stock is new. Also, most of the #luxury student housing at the University of Minnesota isn’t that expensive when you consider living arrangements, roommates, and the cost of on campus housing. Also, there are probably more income-restricted units across the city than you think. On that note, compared to Minneapolis, there’s not a whole lot of market rate construction going on in St. Paul.

Minneapolis and St. Paul are not experiencing a New York City or San Francisco or Hong Kong-type real estate shortage. We do not have properties that have appreciated in value to the tune of over 10,000% in a decade, in like, say, Brooklyn. The affordable units in our metro area are the units that were built in the past. If we build more of them now, people will thank us later.

Note: Trying to find apartment prices of randomly selected buildings on the Internet is a huge nightmare. SEO disaster.

Nick Magrino

About Nick Magrino

Nick Magrino grew up all over the place but has lived in the Loring Park neighborhood of Minneapolis longer than anywhere else. He has a new cat, Sweater, and does not use hashtags at @nickmagrino. He is probably on a bus right now.

40 thoughts on “Analysis: Lots of Cheap Apartments Next to Expensive Apartments

  1. UrbanDoofus

    This is good. What’s up with the in unit amenities? Laundry in unit, central ac? That’s the kind of stuff I’m willing to pony up some cash. Thin granite and fireside study? Meh!

    1. Wayne

      Seriously now that I live in a unit with a dishwasher and washer/dryer (full sized!) I can never go back to sticking quarters in machines I share with other people. I feel so spoiled and bougie saying it, but man–laundry wars with your neighbors are the worst.

      1. UrbanDoofus

        Totally. I believe that the legendary 800 a month 1 bedroom exist, but my question is always “in unit laundry/dishwasher?”

        1. Janne

          I own a small apartment building, and have for 18 years, and I still put quarters in my shared basement laundry room. That’s a convenient amenity, but not one I’m willing to spend more money on than all the money I’ll put into that machine.

          Bonus: I climb up and down stairs instead of spending money on a gym membership.

          Pro tip: avoid Sunday morning. All other times are generally yours for the washing.

  2. Wayne

    I like this game. It reminds me of the city pages series that’s taking jabs at new luxury apartment buildings, only with some facts about more affordable options to soften the blow.

  3. UrbanDoofus

    I’m reminded of a scene from Basquiat, when Jean Michel asks Andy Warhol to buy him $6,000 caviar. They could go to Russia for that price!

    What’s the average demographic of folks living in these units?

    1. Wayne

      Rich old people, targetrons who are bad with money, spoiled children of Minnetonka residents whose parents pay for their luxury apartment while they go to the U and have parties above me.

      1. UrbanDoofus

        You live in a luxury place? Maybe we can use your upstairs neighbor place as collateral for caviar, or Russia!

        1. Wayne

          Technically, but it’s on the more affordable end of the ‘new construction everything is “luxury”‘ spectrum. I’m not paying the $200/mo uptown premium (because I hate uptown) and there’s no pool, but I think I’ll live. I’ll probably move to something made out of concrete and steel when/if anything opens up in the area, though, because people who wear high heels on hardwood floors or have big dogs in apartments should be shot.

          Feel free to kidnap my upstairs neighbor for ransom, though. I won’t shed any tears.

  4. Bill LindekeBill Lindeke

    someone must be paying for it; there is LOT of wealth in this town, but most of it is outside the borders of the core cities. that’s starting to change, which is a good thing.

    1. Anton SchiefferAnton Schieffer

      Yes, even the $2,290 rent is less than 30 percent of income for a couple who makes $100K. Maybe no one told these people that when you make that much money, you’re supposed to buy a house.

      1. Michael RodenMichael Roden

        As part of a DINK couple living in one of these new apartments, Anton is right that the trade-off becomes pretty easy. We are able to only have one car, and we’ve talked about getting rid of it entirely because that’s possible for us. We save a ton on transportation, and we put that money in to paying higher rent for a smaller one-bedroom apartment rather than a dumb 2,000 sf townhome in Eden Prairie. The utilities are much lower too. Everything we need is within walking distance and the in-unit washer/dryer is great.

        1. Wayne

          This is where I’m at too. We have zero cars, though, and she walks to work when it’s nicer out. We both have been pretty poor, so it was kind of hard to stomach paying the rent at first, but honestly combined we make way more than enough (technically we qualified on my income alone, but it would have been irresponsible to spend that much of my check on rent). I don’t even know how some of these little targetrons fresh out of college can afford their rent and their car and the parking spot, which is of course extra. The last time I checked the salaries for recent grads were not enough to be able to afford all that, so they must either be really exceptional (they’re not, I’ve heard them in the hallways) or running up some debt or getting mommy and daddy to pay for some of it. Either way, I like the apartment, hate the neighbors (mostly).

          1. Michael RodenMichael Roden

            yeah, I definitely have met a few people in my building whose finances I am curious about. We’ve also climbed the “apartment ladder” and it really makes us appreciate all of our 698 square feet. The first thing we did when we moved in was do like 8 loads of laundry and it never stopped being awesome.

            1. Matt Brillhart

              Ha. I thought I was moving up in the world when I upgraded to a place with a dishwasher. Turns out, as a single individual, you can’t actually produce enough dishes to *need* a dishwasher, unless you let them pile up in the sink for 2 weeks, which is gross and lazy (but does happen, occasionally).

              I’d trade the dishwasher for in-unit laundry in a heartbeat. Though again, as a male living alone, I do one load of laundry every 2 weeks, and perhaps an extra one of sheets/towels once/month.

              The one amenity I could not trade, and will never trade, is a balcony. I’d take a crappy apartment with a balcony over one with nice floors or countertops and no balcony. I can’t even get my head around the person who rents a super expensive apartment with no balcony (unless it has an awesome rooftop terrace or something similar).

          2. Adam MillerAdam Miller

            If it’s designed and constructed right, you don’t hear the neighbors.

            And it costs so much they are old and boring anyway.

            Although thanks to having a a small mortgage and a lot of equity, my monthly payments are less than these levels of rents even with a big condo fee.

        2. Rosa

          Sometimes when we’re shoveling sidewalks or trying to trim 100 year old elm trees or otherwise paying sweat-taxes on our single family house, I look off into the distance at the Midtown Exchange and daydream about a nice apartment/condo.

    1. Matt Brillhart

      That would actually be really easy to track for anyone that has the ambition. For any project that is still under construction (4Marq, Latitude 45 would be good choices) you can find the 2014 assessed value and taxes paid here:

      Pop those numbers into a spreadsheet and wait for 2015 or 2016 data and voila!

      It might actually be an interesting long term project for anyone motivated enough. There is no shortage of projects that are currently nearing completion in Downtown and Uptown, though the two mentioned above are the only ones that were for sure revenue generating, paid parking lots. Most proposals seem to be replacing vacant/industrial land rather than standalone, revenue generating parking lots.

      1. Nick MagrinoNick Magrino Post author

        The City’s public property information website keeps previous valuations:

        But, a lot of the time they split up or combine parcels for projects, making it kind of hard to do direct comparisons. I see the above example (Track 29 in Uptown) goes back to 2010, my older apartment building has entries back to 2004. I’ve seen some parcels that have data going all the way back to the 1980s.

        I’ve always wondered why there isn’t much drive to clean up parcel maps. There are all sorts of examples where things *should* have been combined or split, but weren’t, and the map is just sort of weird around many redevelopment projects. Like, the whole area around the (no longer all that) new Gopher stadium at the U hasn’t been updated since it was built, etc. But I could just be anal and it doesn’t matter at all to anyone else.

  5. Keith Morris

    $675 for a studio is cheap? Good thing everyone needing a studio in Minneapolis makes over 25k otherwise it would eat up 1/3 or more of their income.

    1. Nick MagrinoNick Magrino Post author

      I would recommend a roommate! There are others available for cheaper, but I was trying to loosely stick with being able to say “literally next door” or “literally across the street.”

    2. Rosa

      There are an awful lot of people living on half that, and some of them are raising kids. But it’s cheap for someone making a living wage (i guess by definition, being able to afford rent is what makes a wage a living wage…)

    3. Alex CecchiniAlex Cecchini

      Like everything, it depends. The 1/3 income rule of thumb is a rough estimate assuming you’ll also have transportation expenses. If you could walkbikebus and not own a car, and H+T costs were barely pushing 40% of income, you’d be doing ok even on very modest income (not taking anything away from the real challenges that still exist).

      But this also highlights the need for that next level down the housing market. The $350-400/mo micro-apartment with a shared kitchen/laundry on the floor. Etc. May not be a practical option for households with more than 1 (at most 2) people, but still a gap.

      Also, Nick has definitely pointed out in the past that solving the “cost” side of the equation can only go so far in our society where $8/hr work is extremely prevalent.

      1. Rosa

        that niche has mostly been filled by people renting single-family houses or duplex apartments as a group, or homeowners renting out single rooms. Which is of course totally illegal and against zoning. Or the old boarding houses, ladies hotels, and SROs which are not only zoned out of existence but bulldozed and gone. There’s a lot of demand for that level of housing – anyone who puts a roomate wanted ad up in that $300-$500 range will get a TON of calls.

        I really hope we can fix our zoning and get the new SDU ordinance passed.

        1. aexx

          A few years ago, faced with a friend who backed out of a lease at the last moment, I was desperately searching for a roommate to help fill my 2-bedroom apartment. Total rent? $1000/month (plus electric and internet).

          I put up an ad on Craigslist and holy mother did I get a lot of requests. Yeah, I was fairly close to the U, so that helped, but I essentially got to pick the cream of the crop (and ended up with a really cool roommate/friend).

          There’s definitely a need for more affordable housing. I do wonder if that would translate to SROs though, rather than just finding a roommate. My roommate loves to cook, for instance, so having to share a kitchen with tons of people would probably be a mildly stressful experience for him.

          1. Rosa

            I think there’s a market for “dorms for grownups”, for real. I’ve had numerous coworkers who lived in studios or 1BRs who just never cooked – their rent was cheap enough they could just eat in restaurants. And I used to work with a woman who’d moved to Minneapolis as a young woman back in the Mary Tyler Moore era, and lived in a ladies hotel – she went out in the evenings, ate lunch at work, and there was laundry service at the hotel so she never had to do it. As a newly-bachelor divorced parent of grown children she was pretty nostalgic for that life.

            It wouldn’t be for everyone (and the only reason SROs were for anybody is they’re better than sleeping on heating grates – which is something people still do, saw someone on a grate between HCMC & the East Metro station this Saturday) but I think we especially have a lot of single older people who can’t do the stairs in the kinds of houses you can share rent in, and single younger people who’d rather live alone than have roomates.

        2. Nick MagrinoNick Magrino Post author

          Depends a bit, you can have three unrelated people (up to five total) living in a house, or five unrelated people if the zoning is R4 or higher. One year, four friends of mine rented a house in Marcy-Holmes that was limited to three unrelated people, but two were brothers and it technically was legal.

          You can also rent out your spare room to a roommate as long as it’s not a separate unit in the dwelling.

    1. aexx

      I don’t disagree with your point. Combining two incomes makes most housing in the Twin Cities–even a lot of the expensive stuff– pretty damn affordable.

      Point of disagreement: Using They seem to overestimate salaries for just about everything. It says I should be make about 20K more than my actual salary. I’m probably a little below where I should be, but I’m definitely NOT $20K below people in my position with my experience.

  6. Joseph TottenJoseph Totten

    Nice post, but to make a more solid case I’d like a little more data, right now it’s more on the lines of a good thought experiment.

    Data I’d like :
    Additional amenities offered in each “Luxury” place.
    Square footage (a super amenity rich, and larger luxury place might be similar rent with a roommate 2 to a bedroom).

    Not 100% the point of this post, but still things I’d want in a long form version.

  7. HotKarl

    I live near Lake & Lyndale in the literal shadow of some of the new buildings (full disclosure: I’d rather live in a building then my current four bedroom house with 7 tenants at present) but it appears to me that capping these buildings at six stories is playing a very active role in “pricing out” many renters. I’ve never heard the rationalization behind the limit beyond it would create shadows on the greenway but surely the benefits of increasing the limit/density promotion could have better impacts on the neighborhood and city right?

    I’m not looking to start a debate, just looking for where I’m looking at this wrong and there’s a lot of knowledgeable people here, thanks.

    1. Nick MagrinoNick Magrino Post author

      Six stories is about the maximum height you can do with wooden frame (“stick”) construction–any higher than that and you have to do steel or concrete. Those are more expensive construction methods, so you have to put more units in a project to make it work financially. You’ll notice there aren’t many nine story apartment buildings–six stories of stick construction is the most common project in Minneapolis, then you’ll see 12-ish story buildings as the shortest steel or concrete framed buildings. It does vary a bit though.

      Aside from that, considering how much work it often is to get four and five and six story buildings past neighborhood groups, any higher than that would be a nightmare in most cases.

      Also worth noting that there are so many infill-able sites in Minneapolis that even building six story buildings at the rate we currently are, it would take ages to fill in all the surface parking and gravel lots.

  8. Colin O'Keefe

    Most middle class young adults who have benefited from intergenerational wealth and parental success shouldn’t have trouble paying rent with these prices. One of the best ways to accumulate wealth is through the ownership of material goods, stocks/bonds, and property. This study however fails to look at how rent prices affect historically marginalized groups of individuals. For example, only 1 and 4 African Americans living in Minnesota owns a home compared to 3 out of 4 whites- that translates into less intergenerational wealth. (

    For Minnesota’s, (disproportionately of color) that have limited access to intergenerational wealth or parental help, it is relatively risky and a more daunting task to pay an average of $750 in rent for a 1 bedroom apartment. I disagree with the author’s statement that “expenses” are social constructs. The conventional public policy indicator of household income that a household can devote to housing costs before an individual is eating into other funds (i.e. food, medicine, gas, insurance). A full time minimum wage job in MN is 18,200 which means an individual should be spending no more than $5,460 on rent per. year. However, if the cost of rent is $750 rent (not including electricity)than an individual in uptown would be spending 50% of their income on rent. College kids can get roommates (not the best situation for everyone). For single families and individuals working minimum wage this is nowhere near being affordable or cheap as the author suggests.

    The lack of affordable housing isn’t just a problem for Uptown. Go anywhere in the city and you will have a hard time finding a 1 bedroom apartment for less than $750. With low wages and little or no intergenerational wealth it is hard for many working 8.50-10 hr jobs. Supplement rent $ is needed. However, little is available. The Minneapolis public housing authority reported a 10,000 person waitlist while section 8 has 9,000 with wait times from 5-7 years (. The extremely high waitlists shine a better picture on the author’s claim that “there are probably more income-restricted units across the city than you think”.

    The author also reminds the reader that most of the high-end developments in uptown will be the affordable housing of tomorrow as the current “affordable” housing was built in the past. The is extremely unlikely. The author fails to understand the definition of adequate affordable housing. Yes, the current housing is enticing to young singles; they can withstand the poor upkeep and conditions for a few years. Eventually they will get their education, job and soon maybe they can afford the better housing. This is not the case for single parents/ working families whose income/ wealth accumulation will increase little.

    1. Nick MagrinoNick Magrino Post author

      And I generally shy away from having long complicated discussions in comment sections, but because you clearly put a lot of work into yours, I’ll say that 1) I don’t know about your first paragraph. Tough nut to crack. I don’t have any solutions.

      2) For the next three, though, it’s complicated. There is a large (and growing) bunch of people in American society who have, effectively, zero dollars. There is also a large (and growing) bunch of people in American society who have, effectively, a small handful of dollars. It’s not clear to me at this point that capitalism is going to successfully figure out how to transition us to a post-industrial economy. It seems pretty clear at this point that there aren’t enough things for people to do for 40 hours a week from age 18 to 65 but the system continues to keep on humming along, letting people work no hours for no dollars or fifteen hours a week at a Sunglass Hut for $9/hour. Building new housing, with a subsidy, to rent out, with a subsidy, to someone being paid poverty wages by a billion dollar corporation feels like missing the problem altogether. Maybe I should let an actual commie chime in?

      In the meantime, I’ll just say that my post was generally targeted at the fauxhemian-types who complain about a new building being built on a lumberyard in Uptown like that’s the thing that made their rent in Stevens Square rent rise $25 last June.

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