Chart of the Day: Loss of Duplex/Triplex/Fourplex Homes in Minneapolis

Like a lot of other places, Minneapolis has a zoning code that promotes areas of low-density or high-density with little in between. That rapidly shrinking segment of homes in between is often referred to as the Missing Middle. One advantage (among others) of small apartment houses is that they’re less expensive to build per unit compared to single family homes or large apartment buildings. In the midst of a housing shortage and widespread concern about housing affordability, we’ve zoned the missing middle out of existence.

Units in 2-, 3-, and 4-unit homes shrinking as single-family grows.

Since 1990, Minneapolis has lost over 6,000 units in the 2-, 3-, and 4-unit category, while adding almost 2,500 single-family homes. According to building permit data, 126 single-family homes were built in 2016, compared to only four total units in the duplex, triplex, and quad category.

Explore more Minneapolis housing data from the Metropolitan Council.

12 thoughts on “Chart of the Day: Loss of Duplex/Triplex/Fourplex Homes in Minneapolis

  1. Janne

    Another benefit of these 2-4-unit buildings is that they often draw a different kind of owner — I am not alone is having purchased an income-producing building so that I could afford my first home. My motivations are different than a more traditional investor. For me, it’s not all about maximizing my investment, it’s about having a home I want to live in with neighbors I want to live near. I’m thankful for the financial help with taxes, utilities, major (roof, boiler, painting) repairs.

    It means I do cost-stupid things (an investor would never do) like hosting a community garden in the backyard, having free pinball in the basement, and baking cherry pie for all the voters in the house on election day.

  2. Alex SchieferdeckerAlex Schieferdecker

    Highly mysterious that Minneapolis elected leaders haven’t been up in arms about these loss of affordable starter rental units, and yet several have decried the supposed future loss of affordable starter homes if the 2040 zoning is enacted.

      1. Adam MillerAdam Miller

        Andrew Johnson and Cam Gordon were quoted in the Strib (I think it was the original one about the “leak” of the 4plexes) as concerned that allowing small multifamily would drive inexpensive houses to be replaced.

        I have some faith that both will come around, though.

        1. Daniel Hartigkingledion

          Of all the council members, I would have picked Andrew Johnson second (after Jacob Frey) as being most supportive of the 4-plex plan. I wonder why he is opposing it?

            1. Adam MillerAdam Miller

              There were some early questioning quotes, which may not be opposition. But yeah, Johnson would be sort of up there in the power rankings to support. Not as high as Bender (#1) but gotta be in the running with Schroeder for second, at least before the quotes.

              I don’t know about “problem” but the featured image on my Street Car post is in Johnson’s ward, I think. They’re happening all over the city.

        2. Julie Kosbab

          Some of the inexpensive houses SHOULD be replaced, though. Some are inexpensive because they need extensive work or remediations that belie their purchase price, and are difficult for many buyers to finance – or for investors to justify.

          That’s been a story in St. Paul, for sure, and I have no reason to believe it altogether different on the other side of the river.

  3. SSP

    Certainly the Missing Middle stalled, but hard to draw conclusions about why without more detail.

    Has the number of units in the 2-4 housing unit category decreased since 2000? It’s hard to tell from the table.

    How many duplexes were lost, vs. triplexes or four-plexes during this 28 year period?

    Some number of duplexes undoubtedly became single family homes, but some significant number probably got replaced with multifamily. I can’t recall a fourplex being torn down in the last 30+ years in South Mpls, but duplexes get bulldozed for new apartment buildings more regularly.

    And no category for rooming houses? Not even sure you can call that class of housing endangered since they seem to have completely disappeared as a housing type.

    If my neighborhood is any indication, taking down duplexes to build fourplexes or larger doesn’t do much to address affordable housing since the new units are much more expensive than the old.

    Finally, how do accessory units fit in on this table? Is a single family with a granny unit single family or a duplex units on this table? And how many have we gotten in Mpls since the ordinance was passed?

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