Arguments Against Minneapolis’s Draft Comprehensive Plan, Addressed (Part I)

It seems like it’s time to take stock of the arguments being levied against ideas in the Minneapolis Draft 2040 Comprehensive Plan. Here are some of the common themes that you might hear argued—or might be compelled to argue yourself!—and some point-by-point responses.

Density Belongs Downtown (or Near the University, or…)

A Minneapolis single-family home

This South Minneapolis home, next to an apartment building, and across the street from two other multifamily dwellings, appreciated 85% in 9 years and always had plenty of parking.

The Draft Plan already reflects that the city will “allow the highest-density housing in and near Downtown.” But why should that be the only place density or population growth is allowed?

This is the fairly straightforward NIMBY position, though it could be disguised as a proposal from someone within, or “representing” the proposed Density-Acceptable-Zone. Density is fine, as long as it is somewhere else. In this case, where dense development has already been allowed. 

The fundamental defects of this argument are those of fairness and the economics of artificial (politically-created) scarcity.

The problems with restricting where population growth can occur are fairly clear: it constrains the land available, increasing costs, limiting choice, and limiting the population growth that can be economically and sustainably achieved. People who might choose to live in Minneapolis in excess of new housing units have no other choice but to bid up property values or contribute to sprawl.

Artificially narrowing the geographical boundaries of where Minneapolis can experience growth to please well-off property owners who would prefer to wall themselves off from this change, is a selfish impulse made policy. It perpetuates class and race inequities, it enriches existing property owners at the expense of aspiring property owners and would-be neighbors, and puts “affordability” in a vice.

But also consider: how do homeowners in the “density approved” area feel about being “volunteered” by wealthy landowners elsewhere in the city as the place to concentrate new housing? Not entirely keen! So it’s really just dumping the “problem” on a group you hope is not politically effective enough to resist. That’s unjust, and another demonstration of how this self-serving approach benefits the politically and financially secure at the expense of people without those advantages. It would also inevitably contribute to increased socio-economic concentration in the long-run, which is harmful to the city and something the Comprehensive Plan is appropriately trying to ameliorate.

Housing can’t be affordable if it isn’t plentiful. Restricting housing growth geographically to two (or any small percentage of) neighborhoods in the entire city limits inventory. You can’t do it and claim to prioritize affordability or equity. (Affordability mandates will be discussed in more detail in Part II.) The fair thing to do is to share the burdens and the benefits of increasing density throughout the city.

Pursue Density Near High Frequency Transit

This sounds like a self-evident policy goal because it is. But it isn’t a sound reason to restrict development and growth elsewhere.

My response to this is: “yes, and…” The proposed Comprehensive Plan clearly already prefers to put new housing near transit, and the market is going to do that naturally on its own. It’s going to happen. But the transit and walkability status quo shouldn’t entirely dictate how the city grows into the future, or be a basis for restricting it to those places where it already exists. (See the responses above to “Density Belongs Downtown.“)

Density increases need to be accompanied by improved transit and walkable services, no question. Density, transit, and walkability are a three-legged stool and, throughout Minneapolis, each leg needs to grow.

But their absence or inadequacy today doesn’t justify preventing growth. People should be given a choice about where in the city they can live. The necessary service improvements to accommodate their choices should also be pursued! Housing more people in those places is the surest way to make it happen.

Conversely, making transit improvements and more walkable services a prerequisite to the demand (increased density) that would justify them is an easy way to make sure none of it materializes. A convenient, self-fulfilling anti-density, anti-transit, and anti-walkability prophesy, and also contrary to the Comprehensive Plan’s goal to make every neighborhood in Minneapolis a complete neighborhood.

Indiscriminate Bulldozing

This is a fear-based argument. Fear of the unknown, the random, and of vast powers outside of your control destroying your neighborhood and what you hold dear.

There are so many flaws with this sensationalized argument it is hard to know where to start. But I guess it needs to be said that the 2040 Comprehensive Plan will not turn Minneapolis into the occupied West Bank—which as far as I can tell is the closest analogy to the fear and anxiety this argument is intended to invoke.

Bulldozing will not be indiscriminate—no more so than it is today. Property owners would decide what happens to their property, just as they already do. Only, instead of being required to build single family homes in most of the city, they may build a 2-, 3-, or 4-plex. That’s all.

The Comprehensive Plan isn’t about bulldozing at all. It’s about what to build after the bulldozer leaves. And right now, in most places, that thing could already be a single family home as big as a fourplex, so it’s really only about expanding who can afford and is allowed to live in whatever is built after the bulldozer leaves.

There are more arguments out there. I’ve already spotted a few and expect to touch on them in a followup: Part II.

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60 Responses to Arguments Against Minneapolis’s Draft Comprehensive Plan, Addressed (Part I)

  1. Chris Moseng
    Chris Moseng June 5, 2018 at 10:47 am #

    I also want to add that the property that was most impairing the property value of the above-pictured South Minneapolis home was another single-family structure on the block. A poorly maintained and questionably “improved” eyesore that was foreclosed on, abandoned, and eventually caught fire.

    It was, mercifully, eventually bulldozed. But despite all the multifamily homes on the block, and proximity to high-frequency transit, it’s now, ridiculously, zoned R1. That lot should be upzoned, along with the rest of the city.

    • Gary June 7, 2018 at 10:24 am #

      Chris, thank you for your thoughtful article on this most important matter for our City. I too am a proponent of greater density. I agree that greater density is an important policy objective. However, I cringed when I read your statement “It perpetuates class and race inequities, it enriches existing property owners at the expense of aspiring property owners and would-be neighbors, and puts “affordability” in a vice.” I believe that this is a significant overreach of what a higher density policy will accomplish.

      You offer no data to support this well-meaning, but misguided contention. In case you weren’t aware property (home) ownership by people of color, particularly Black people (24%) is the lowest in the Twin Cities than anywhere else in the country.
      Not to mention income, assets and wealth creating mechanisms that would be required for most people of color in Minneapolis to even play in the same sandbox as most “property owners”.

      It is shameful when well-meaning people use the issue of racial inequalities to justify and advance policies that are tangentially related and offering no real solutions to get at the underlying issues that have created and exacerbated these large economic racialized inequalities. Please stop!

      These supply-side economics (Reaganomics) approaches remind me of the conservative movement in the 1980’s. Supply side economics didn’t work in the 80s and will not work to address racial economic inequalities in Minneapolis today. Nevertheless, there are some sound planning and economic reasons to increase density, however, please don’t use racial economic inequalities as the reason for doing so. When you do so, you trivialize these issues for people of color who have suffered from a plethora of well intentioned public policy decisions that have only exacerbated our plight for so long.

      Your racial equity/density argument doesn’t follow the data or patterns of high density development that have occurred in Minneapolis or other cities throughout the country. For example, thousands of new units have been built in uptown, downtown and the north loop in the last 5 years, yet, these new developments have not increase the racial equity or diversity of these communities (except in small isolated cases, perhaps). In fact, many of these developments have pushed rents higher and have further isolated and displaced people of color. So, in other words, more density hasn’t led to more racial equity and more housing choices for people of color.

      If you look at the major cities that have increased density, including Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, Oakland, Denver, I could go on… Each of these major metropolitan areas have seen significant increases in density which has led to greater gentrification, dislocating poor, mostly people of color, out of the cities into low income enclaves further from transit, jobs and economic opportunity. Could you please given me a real example where higher density has led to greater racial economic inclusion or other enhanced outcomes?

      If you were to suggest that we would couple our density policy with inclusionary zoning or other mechanisms to maintain and develop housing for people of color and working people that would be a start. These type of progressive policies are not in the Draft Minneapolis 2040 plan.

      What I am curious to see is where is the economic modeling that shows the level of housing density would be required to obtain the benefits the Minneapolis 2040 plan postulates?

      I must admit I am deeply disappointed in the draft Minneapolis 2040 plan. I expected better from my City. Minneapolis 2040 articulates a strong case and addressing racial and ethnic inequalities, but the solutions espoused are woefully inadequate to address the magnitude of the issues raised.

      I am very concerned that if we don’t do something more profoundly significant like inclusionary zoning, building economic parity through business development and addressing the deep economic inequalities through programs like children’s savings accounts, access to banking, addressing predatory lending and improving our education outcomes, then Minneapolis will retain its well earned title as one of the worst places for people of color, particularly Black people to live.

      Gary L. Cunningham
      Metropolitan Council District 7

      • Adam Miller
        Adam Miller June 7, 2018 at 10:45 am #

        Gary, the language you quoted are outcomes that Chris asserts result from “restricting where population growth can occur.” They certainly are, although you’re also certainly right that they aren’t magically alleviated by increasing density. It will take more than just removing the restrictions, but we also need to remove the restrictions.

        It’s strange, though, that you list San Francisco – the very poster city for restricting housing supply – as a city that’s been ravaged by density.

        As to why inclusionary zoning isn’t included in the comprehensive plan, I think that’s because it’s a policy question that is not necessarily the job of the planning department to propose. The council created a new housing policy committee chaired by CM Gordon, however, and he’s said they are working on an inclusionary zoning proposal. I’m interested in what they come up with. Several other councilmembers also included inclusionary zoning in their campaign positions (Bender, Schroeder and Fletcher, off the top of my head), so I’m optimistic they can pass something.

        • Gary June 7, 2018 at 1:22 pm #

          Adam, I am not opposed to greater density as a policy objective. What I am opposed to is using greater density as a solution to racial inequalities in our City as suggested in Chris’s post. Without addressing the boarder underlying policy issues needed to create a future that works equally well for everyone.

          As you rightly noted, it will take much more than density policy changes to address racial and economic inequalities. What I want to know is what are these other issues and solutions they certainly don’t appear anywhere in the current Minneapolis draft plan. Why are you and others asking not asking this fundamental question? Why isn’t racial equity not at the forefront of our conversation? If you are an ally in this work of racial and ethnic equity, then please step up to the plate. Don’t just use the issue of racial equity when it works for your agenda and is convenient.

          It is not enough to say, “It will take more than just removing the restrictions…” It is imperative that the Minneapolis 2040 comprehensive plan articulate what are the actual steps to be taken to address the issue identified as priorities. How do we bring the solutions into the policy discussion, if they don’t exist in the Minneapolis 2040 plan. If we are concerned about racial inequalities as Chris’s article suggests, than those issues should be front and center in the plan, not used as an aside to address other policy agendas. To be clear, I’m not saying density isn’t helpful, what am I saying it is insufficient to address the magnitude of the issues we face. What I’m not hearing from well meaning advocate for density is what would be sufficient to address these underlying issues.

          You also stated that inclusionary zoning wasn’t included in the comprehensive plan because it’s a policy question that is not necessarily the job of the planning department to propose. However, you then stated that it is in the purview of the planning department to recommend policies regarding density? There’s something wrong with your logic here. Both of these issues impact development, both impact future planning of the city. Both issues impact the core issues of the comprehensive plan. In fact, racial and economic inequalities seems to float to the top throughout the Minneapolis 2040 draft as what needs to be addressed if Minneapolis is to be a vibrant livable place that works equally well for everyone. Could you explain the difference here? I’m not following.

          Are you suggesting that City of Minneapolis planners shouldn’t address the issue that they identify as the number one impediment for economic growth in our City? As a former director of planning, I find this logic hard to comprehend from a professional perspective.

          With regarding San Francisco, you miss my point completely. Are you suggesting that poor people aren’t being displaced by increasing density in the cities that I listed? And, if only they had lifted their density restrictions we wouldn’t be witnessing the type of gentrification and displacement of low income people?

          I would like to see examples of cities where the density restrictions have been lifted and the issue of economic inequalities, gentrification and displacement for poor people and people of color have been addressed or even mitigated. Or, show me an economic model where this increase in supply gets at some of the underlying issues of racial inequalities within urban areas?

          The point I’m making is that many times issues that are tangential to economic racial and ethnic inequalities are being use to further another policy agenda. I am actually in favor of more density, if we can address the negative externalities of displacement and gentrification. What is missing is the policy solutions need to address both.

          These policies solutions of density and racial economic inequalities are inexplicably tied together. So, if you’re talking about more density, we also have create policies to address the deleterious effects on low income people and people of color. Otherwise you end up with policies that maintain the horrendous and toxic racial and ethnic inequalities we have in our community.

          I asked again respectfully, please stop.

          • Gary L. Cunningham June 7, 2018 at 7:31 pm #

            My response to Adam Miller: Edited version

            Dear Adam, I am not opposed to greater density as a policy objective. What I am opposed to is using greater density as a solution to racial inequalities in our City as suggested in Chris’s post. Without addressing the boarder underlying policy issues needed to create a future that works equally well for everyone.

            As you rightly noted, it will take much more than density policy changes to address racial and economic inequalities. What I want to know is what are these other issues and solutions? They certainly don’t appear anywhere in the current Minneapolis draft plan. Why are you and others not asking this fundamental question? Why isn’t racial equity at the forefront of our conversation? If you are an ally in this work of racial and ethnic equity, then please step up to the plate. Don’t just use the issue of racial equity when it works for your agenda and is convenient.

            It is not enough to say, “It will take more than just removing the restrictions…” It is imperative that the Minneapolis 2040 comprehensive plan articulate what are the actual steps to be taken to address the issue identified as priorities. How do we bring the solutions into the policy discussion, if they don’t exist in the Minneapolis 2040 plan. If we are concerned about racial inequalities as Chris’s article suggests, than those issues should be front and center in the plan, not used as an aside to address other policy agendas. To be clear, I’m not saying density isn’t helpful, what am I saying it is insufficient to address the magnitude of the issues we face. What I’m not hearing from well meaning advocates for density is what would be sufficient to address these underlying issues.

            You also stated that inclusionary zoning wasn’t included in the comprehensive plan because it’s a policy question that is not necessarily the job of the planning department to propose. However, you then stated that it is in the purview of the planning department to recommend policies regarding density? There’s something wrong with your logic here. Both of these issues impact development, both impact future planning of the city. Both issues impact the core issues of the comprehensive plan. In fact, racial and economic inequalities seems to float to the top throughout the Minneapolis 2040 draft as what needs to be addressed if Minneapolis is to be a vibrant livable place that works equally well for everyone. Could you explain the difference here? I’m not following.

            Are you suggesting that City of Minneapolis planners shouldn’t address the issue that they identify as the number one impediment for economic growth in our City? As a former director of planning, I find this logic hard to comprehend from a professional perspective.

            With regards to San Francisco, you missed my point completely. Are you suggesting that poor people aren’t being displaced by increasing density in the cities that I listed? And, if only they had lifted their density restrictions we wouldn’t be witnessing the type of gentrification and displacement of low income people?

            I would like to see examples of cities where the density restrictions have been lifted and the issue of economic inequalities, gentrification and displacement for poor people and people of color have been addressed or even mitigated. Or, show me an economic model where this increase in supply gets at some of the underlying issues of racial inequalities within urban areas?

            The point I’m making is that many times issues that are tangential to economic racial and ethnic inequalities are being use to further another policy agenda. I am actually in favor of more density, if we can address the negative externalities of displacement and gentrification. What is missing is the policy solutions needs to address both.

            These policies solutions of density and racial economic inequalities are inexplicably tied together. So, if you’re talking about more density, we also have to create policies to address the deleterious effects on low income people and people of color. Otherwise you end up with policies that maintain the horrendous and toxic racial and ethnic inequalities we have in our community.

            I asked again respectfully, please stop.

            • mplsjaromir June 11, 2018 at 8:07 am #

              San Francisco adds less than 1% per year to its housing stock. The problem is that in demand cities are growing too slowly. People take cursory look at cities development patterns and make the wrong assumptions.

              I ask respectfully, please stop.

      • Chris Moseng
        Chris Moseng June 7, 2018 at 8:11 pm #

        Mr. Cunningham,

        I appreciate your taking the time to read and respond to my post. I wanted to take some time and reflect on you response. I’m going to continue to do so as I prepare to write Part II.

        I did want to respond, in particular, to the inference that I suggested “greater density as a solution to racial inequalities,” or that the passage you quoted in your initial comment (“It perpetuates class and race inequities, it enriches existing property owners at the expense of aspiring property owners and would-be neighbors, and puts “affordability” in a vice.”) advances any claim as to what density increases *will* necessarily accomplish.

        I generally agree with your assertion that increases in density are not a panacea. However, what wasn’t my argument. I said nothing more than that failing to allow density to increase will perpetuate the status quo, which I agree is unacceptable. I believe it is necessary, but not sufficient.

        I tried to avoid saying anything that implied that I thought it would be sufficient.
        I agree 100% that we need to “address[] the broader underlying policy issues needed to create a future that works equally well for everyone,” and that that will require much more than merely allowing density to increase.

      • Manbikesdog
        Chip Jenne June 25, 2018 at 11:23 pm #

        Mr. Cunningham, you are literally the only current voice of reason in a position of authority to state a clear and cogent argument asserting the deleterious effects this bill will have. The canard that was the funding proposal for US Bank Stadium should have been the canary in the coal mine for future private schemes at public expense. If people want to protect the poor and POC and secure affordable housing they will use terms like “rent control” instead of “housing growth.” Finally, kudos for engaging what appears to be in sum a bicycle rights lobbying forum with the mindset of the Brookings Institution.

  2. cdelle June 5, 2018 at 12:11 pm #

    Thanks for writing this, I appreciate this after having to suffer through some terrible takes filled with lies on this site about the comp plan. Observing the fear mongering surrounding the comp plan draft and development in general it’s clear opponents are reaching and throwing various things out there hoping something sticks. It all comes down to they don’t want more people in their neighborhood and want sunlight to shine down on their woodwork (this is a real thing said at a comp plan meeting). Their main issue is what other people can do to their property and having control over that.

    I’m glad the comp plan draft is equity focused and interested in undoing all the damage caused by the very vocal opponents of the draft plan. It’s time for exclusionary zoning to end and this draft plan moves us in the right direction.I wish it would go even further. We shouldn’t concentrate people on polluted corridors.

    • Nathan June 22, 2018 at 3:17 pm #

      Yes, it’s “a real thing” that I said. I do like sunlight, especially in winter. You might find that is common among Minnesotans.

      FYI, I have a roommate and am considering getting a second. We all get affordable housing, it is environmentally-friendly, and it preserves a beautiful century-old house. Maybe that makes up for “all the damage caused by” my opposition.

      • Bill Lindeke
        Bill Lindeke June 22, 2018 at 4:00 pm #

        IMO it’s OK to care about and enjoy sunlight but not to think that one owns or is entitled to it.

  3. Leah June 5, 2018 at 12:19 pm #

    I appreciate this take. However, what we are seeing in Northeast Minneapolis is dramatically increased LUXURY housing. It doesn’t matter how much housing you add, if the rents are sky high (and they are), that does nothing to create or promote equitable housing.

    • Scott Merth June 5, 2018 at 1:19 pm #

      As the author states, the only way to have affordable housing is if there’s an abundance of housing. The current housing shortage is driving costs up–not kept them stagnant. Just because some of the new housing is marketed as ‘luxury’ does not mean that the existing housing stock will remain at a high cost once prices balance out with the increased density.

      PS: I’m not sure I’ll ever see the day when a landlord for a brand new building decides to market their offering as sub par. Of course they say luxury–they’re trying to sell the units. Of course they are expensive–building new is expensive. It’s my impression that what was previously 80’s-90’s era luxury is today’s average. That said, new affordable housing apartments are still being built in this city–something I believe we can both agree should promoted and expanded.

      • Randy June 5, 2018 at 3:57 pm #

        I’m always interested how you wind up with abundant housing when it mostly has to be built by speculative developers who won’t build if they think there will be enough surplus that rents will go down.

        Developing housing in an already fully built-out city isn’t a hobby, it’s mostly a business backed by sharp-penciled capitalists who are only really interested in building into high-demand, rising-rents markets. Once those trends plateau and they see their investment potential decline, why would they build?

        I’m not opposed to duplexes, 4-plexes, granny apartments, etc, but I don’t think pushing these is a solution if the financial forces behind their development won’t see it as a business opportunity. Unless the city is going to start using its bonding authority to underwrite existing property owners bulldozing their own homes to build 4-plexes, those properties will only be built by people who check their math and see profits. Nobody is going to build them (with someone else’s money!) because they want to see lower rents and more housing.

        • Adam Miller
          Adam Miller June 5, 2018 at 4:52 pm #

          If you don’t think anything is going to get built, there’s no reason to oppose changes that allow it.

          • Carol Becker June 5, 2018 at 6:30 pm #

            Blackstone, one of the biggest hedge funds, owns over 80,000 housing units and growing. Their assets went up 22% last year. Easy to see who will build this housing.

            • Matt Eckholm
              Matt Eckholm June 6, 2018 at 4:47 pm #

              As someone who has dealt with Invitation Homes/Blackstone personally, I can tell you they aren’t in the construction business. They’re in the business of buying cheap or foreclosed starter homes, doing the bare minimum amount of maintenance, and renting them out for market rate rents.

              They contribute to the current undersupply of housing in US cities, and restrictive zoning/low vacancy rates allow them to make princely profits from their investments.

            • Matt Steele
              Matt Steele June 9, 2018 at 9:21 am #

              Isn’t it sad that local governments across America, including the City of Minneapolis, restrict housing so much that it’s considered a speculative investment rather than a place for a family to live, and is therefore such an appealing place for hedge funds to invest?

        • Daniel Hartig
          kingledion June 6, 2018 at 6:03 am #

          Zillow’s home value index for Minneapolis shows something like an 80% increase over the past six years. Housing prices go up because demand is greater than supply.

          The best thing for the city is to allow supply to meet demand. Current zoning laws mean that the cost to add housing at a rate equal with demand is higher than house prices currently are. Therefore, house prices will continue going up until either a.) demand falls or b.) the cost of current housing equalizes with the cost of increasing housing supply.

          Now b.) can be achieved one of two ways: current housing costs continue to go up until they meet the high cost of increased supply; or, the cost of increased supply can go down.

          The new zoning regulation allows that last one to happen. Fourplexes are crucial to this; if the only housing you allow to be built is large apartment complexes, then the only builders will be large developers. On the other hand adding an ADU is in the $250k range, perhaps, and rebuilding a single family home as a fourplex might be in the $600k range. That puts housing increases into the hands of private residents of the city, instead of concentrating it with big developers.

          So, relaxing zoning regulations allows the sort of private investors who might actually take civic interest in their own city to get in on the housing action, without taking a bath financially. More taxpayers, more business customers, more employees, whats not to like from letting more people live here?

          • Nathan June 8, 2018 at 5:33 pm #

            Are you surprised that prices have gone up since the foreclosure crisis? That’s a pretty weak statistic to use.

            If costs drop won’t demand increase the number of people wanting to live here, restoring costs?

            Do you know many private residents interested in taking out a $250 to $600,000 mortgage to add units? I wouldn’t dream of that unless I could balance risk across multiple properties and markets and protect myself with an LLC. In other words – big developers.

            What’s not to like? More traffic, more noise and more crowding come to mind.

            • Adam Miller
              Adam Miller June 8, 2018 at 9:03 pm #

              Please define “big.” Because what you describe sounds small to me, especially in relation to the people who build projects in the tens and hundreds of millions of dollars.

              • Nathan June 22, 2018 at 3:11 pm #

                I was responding to this comment: “That puts housing increases into the hands of private residents of the city, instead of concentrating it with big developers.”

                So I suppose big developers means businesses, and most specifically not people living in the building.

                • Adam Miller
                  Adam Miller June 23, 2018 at 2:41 pm #

                  Yeah, the point is that a lot more people can add an ADU or owner-occupy a triplex than can build 40 story towers downtown.

                • Bruce Brunner
                  Bruce Brunner June 24, 2018 at 8:34 pm #

                  I’m a small businessman who has some duplexes and would love to add ADU’s to my duplex/triplexes to rent. I don’t fit into any category that remotely can be compared using the word “big”. But there are hundreds of small people like me that would add them since we already own rentals and feel comfortable taking out loans since we already have the land to build them on

    • Adam Miller
      Adam Miller June 5, 2018 at 1:21 pm #

      What it does is keep the people who are buying and renting in those new buildings from buying and renting in old buildings – renovating them either before or after moving in.

    • Carol Becker June 5, 2018 at 6:24 pm #

      You have 1000 housing units a year to figure out where to put. Or 12% growth over 20 years. Or about 1/2% growth a year. Where are you going to put it? You can scatter it across literally dozens of square miles or you can focus it in existing walkable environments at high frequency transit nodes. You don’t get to spend it twice – if you don’t concentrate it, you spread it. We got the two walkable environments, downtown and around the U, by concentrating development there. We get more transit riders by concentrating development around high frequency transit service. If you spread the housing in lower frequency transit service and away from transit routes, people will be less likely to use transit. It is pretty simple. You can’t be for fourplexes and density at the same time. You get to build the housing once – it is one or the other.

      • Adam Miller
        Adam Miller June 6, 2018 at 9:29 am #

        We have many walkable environments and we’re trying to make more. We don’t do that by “concentrating” (i.e., segregating) new housing in two arbitrarily chosen areas.

      • Rosa June 7, 2018 at 9:33 am #

        How about in the empty lots all around South Minneapolis that end up as giant yards or community gardens after homes are bulldozed because they are condemned? That would be a nice start and alliowibg multi units might make them more profitable so developers would do it. There are two between 31st and 33rd on Bloomington Ave near me.

      • Bruce Brunner
        Bruce Brunner June 24, 2018 at 8:37 pm #

        It’s a fallacy to say you can’t have fourplexes and density at the same time. Not everything has to be a 100 unit apartment complex built by huge developers so why advocate for that? It takes multiple facets to overcome the shortage of housing. Not sure why you might think there is only one solution.

  4. Mike Hess June 5, 2018 at 1:04 pm #

    You need to define and acknowledge the different levels of “density”. The density of allowing 4plexs vs 2story small size brownstone like buildings vs multi parcel 6 story apartments without parking requirements are not comparable – and in the density push back i have seen in person and online people are making distinctions at what level they become uncomfortable for their neighborhood.

    Similarly the argument “walk Around your neighborhood there are already lots of multi family buildings” doesn’t account for areas where the upzoning would allow a lot more mass/scale than what is there today.

    • Stu June 5, 2018 at 3:53 pm #

      I also agree.

      While there is a ton of fear mongering regarding indiscriminate bulldozing and Frey-plexes on the one side of the coin, there is considerable downplaying of the impacts of Corridor 4 or 6 areas on the other.

      Bring on the 4plexes and ADUs. They are the same size as the new “craftsman” style houses being built in Southwest and Nokomis. Really they are and they will fit in just fine.

      I live on a proposed corridor 4. It has billions and billions of cars driving by each minute. But that makes it affordable. Affordable for Southwest anyway, so that a special ed teacher and a public employee can make it work. We bought it so that I could bike to work once the kids are out of daycare (and in the summer) and so that my wife could walk to work and be on the same schedule as the kids.

      Basically, we would like to be here 20 years.

      When you get to the point where you start to game out the next 20 years (we are oldish millennials) it makes corridor 4 seem a bit scary, even knowing that nothing will change tomorrow. So I can see those aging boomers who have already lived out the 20 or 30 years and are gaming out the next 20 get worked up about it. I try to extend to them as much grace as I can. Even the 4 plex haters.

      • Adam Miller
        Adam Miller June 5, 2018 at 4:59 pm #

        Would you mind explaining a little more? What is it that you’re afraid of that will change so that you don’t want to live there anymore?

        • Mike Hess June 5, 2018 at 7:02 pm #

          Corridor 4 (my new proposed zoning because we are 1 street off a bus line) has actually no maximum height. 4 stories, “or higher” is how it is written.

          While people valuing sunlight have been mocked on this site I’ve tried to visualize what would happen if the modest 2 story apartment building behind me were 6 stories tall and I’m not a fan.

          So for my neighbors who still have single family behind them the idea of having a building of substantial height replace those houses is a big negative.

          • Adam Miller
            Adam Miller June 6, 2018 at 9:31 am #

            The actual language is “Building heights should be 1 to 4 stories. Requests to exceed 4 stories will be evaluated on the basis of whether or not a taller building is a reasonable means for further achieving Comprehensive Plan goals.”

            • Mike Hess June 6, 2018 at 10:15 am #

              Exactly. Corridor 4 with 6-8 story buildings for example could effectively be the same density as Corridor 6 which is supposed to be reserved for more intensive transit areas – and thus it would be even less compatible with the current neighborhood density where Corridor 4 at 4 stories is a big concern.

              Given the comprehensive plan goals I would be very surprised to see the city not support a building over 4 stories if it included for example affordable housing to address that shortfall without regard to the density surrounding the project since the plan really assumes a displacement of SF houses on these streets over time.

      • Chris Moseng
        Chris Moseng June 5, 2018 at 5:01 pm #

        What, specifically, is scary? One-to-four or even two-to-six story buildings don’t seem that scary to me but maybe I need to reconsider my threat model.

        If the concern is being caught holding the bag by being the last single-family home on the block 20 years from now, just, you know, don’t do that. Or do, if you’re into that. Either way, you’ve got 20 years to figure out what you wanna do.

        But I guess the other thing is that even the anti-comp-plan folks support densifying these corridors, because they aren’t the parcels they’re trying to protect. So the best hope to slow the pace of change on corridors 4 or 6 is to make sure the growth is as well distributed as possible.

        • Jonathan Foster June 7, 2018 at 12:59 pm #

          I’m 35. We also want to live in our house for 20 years and then move somewhere in our neighborhood that isn’t a single family home. Without increased housing options, there is no where like that to live in our neighborhood. Having to choose between a house we can’t maintain and or leaving the neighborhood is scary, because that is reality for too many people in Minneapolis right now.

      • Carol Becker June 5, 2018 at 6:28 pm #

        I plan to be here another 50 years. Hopefully we will run into each other in that time!

  5. Leah June 5, 2018 at 1:27 pm #

    Agreed. It also increases adjacent properties’ values to the point where people who could previously afford the neighborhood no longer can – which is the definition of gentrification.

    And in the case of many of the luxury condos in NE, they are not including any affordable units because the neighborhood quotas have been met by a single budget building. This is not the kind of equity that helps build community.

    • Adam Miller
      Adam Miller June 5, 2018 at 4:55 pm #

      It’s the demand for housing the in neighborhood that increases property values, not the new housing.

      People want to live there. That’s why other people want to build new housing there. It’s also why existing housing there appreciates.

    • Bill Lindeke
      Bill Lindeke June 22, 2018 at 4:01 pm #

      Are there housing quotas in Minneapolis?

  6. SSP June 5, 2018 at 5:25 pm #

    The article responds to three arguments, but the first and third are not arguments I’ve actually seen put forward in opposition to the new plan, except as straw-man arguments advanced by those who support it.

    As for the second argument – that the plan already encourages high density development near transit, so “the market is going to do that naturally on its own[,]” sorry, but that’s not necessarily true. The market will develop housing where it makes money for private developers to build it, and allowing higher density off transit nodes means developers can make higher profits by moving away from the areas now zoned for higher density (because the land is cheaper). But it will not be affordable.

    Others have already pointed out the fallacy of thinking more high density development means anything accept more expensive housing – affordable housing in cities is not built by private capital without financial government assistance. Believing that changing zoning will accomplish this is an argument in search of evidence that does not exist.

    • Carol Becker June 5, 2018 at 6:27 pm #

      I agree. You will get no new affordable housing build by the private sector. It is too expensive. Zoning changes will only produce middle and upper class housing. It is a red herring put out there by people who are for this plan – that it will produce new affordable housing – but it won’t.

      • Chris Moseng
        Chris Moseng June 5, 2018 at 6:37 pm #

        Don’t get ahead of me, I will talk about “affordability” next time. Sneak preview: new things are generally less affordable than used things, and housing is no exception.

      • Morgan Bird June 8, 2018 at 1:46 pm #

        What’s wrong with middle class housing, Carol? We need a lot more of that too. Would your house be affordable to a low income person if you sold it today? If not maybe we should never have built it?

    • Chris Moseng
      Chris Moseng June 5, 2018 at 6:33 pm #

      I suggest you read other things written by self-professed opponents on this very website. Though I’m intrigued by the suggestion that they were actually deep cover pro-density activists trying to make opposition look ridiculous.

      You’re pretty quick to suggest that the market won’t want to build a fourplex and make more total you selling them at less per unit than it could make on a SFH (i.e., MORE AFFORDABLE), but if it’s indeed true then why waste your time and energy opposing it? Just let the “pointless” zoning change happen and move on with your life.

      The developer boogeyman argument is the real strawman.

    • Adam Miller
      Adam Miller June 6, 2018 at 9:36 am #

      As to the third, see: https://streets.mn/2018/05/25/what-two-and-a-half-stories-actually-looks-like/

      As to the first, see: https://streets.mn/2018/06/05/arguments-against-minneapoliss-draft-comprehensive-plan-addressed-part-i/#comment-179560

      I’m not sure why you think the land is cheaper in areas that are not currently zoned for higher density. I wouldn’t think that’s consistently true.

      Changing zoning will help constrain the upward pressure on unsubsidized housing that’s currently spiralling out of control.

  7. GlowBoy June 6, 2018 at 1:46 pm #

    This ignores the concept of substitute goods. New housing with sky-high rents isn’t *creating* new renters with lots of money. Those people already exist. And without a shortage of housing, they bid up the rents on everything else.

    Even if new housing is expensive, and only accessible to high-income renters, it gives those high-income renters places to live without putting so much pressure on depreciated housing that can potentially rent for less.

  8. Casey June 7, 2018 at 3:08 pm #

    Can we be honest for just one minute? When luxury housing gets built near affordable housing the rents will go up in the older affordable building because of assessed property values which increase property tax. Owners of these properties pass along expense increases to their tenants. Rents increase.

    Building luxury apartments will not help the affordable housing crisis. No matter how many are built. Trickle down housing does not work. I understand many of the posters on this site don’t remember Reaganomics, ask your parents or do some research.

    • Adam Miller
      Adam Miller June 7, 2018 at 3:15 pm #

      I’d love to see a study on whether new units increase neighboring units assessed values. My guess they really don’t, based only on the widely-varying assessed values in my neighborhood. Location (hurts to be on the busy street) and condition of the house matter a lot more than what’s next door.

      Even if new housing comes with new amenities (i.e., a grocery store, retail, whatever), I bet that doesn’t filter into taxes very quickly if at all. That’s just now how property tax assessments seem to work.

      But somebody thought it would be a good idea to build a new luxury building there, which probably means someone else might be interested in renting or renovating existing housing, which definitely drives up rents. Not building luxury housing next door may do so even more.

      • Casey June 7, 2018 at 3:32 pm #

        Perhaps you should speak with an assessor or research instead of guessing.

        “Sales information about properties with characteristics similar to yours is one factor used to update your market value.” https://www.hennepin.us/residents/property/property-value

        An Increase in Home Sales Around You
        “We find that property tax bills jump higher when there have been a number of sales in the neighborhood,” says Jeff Miller, cofounder of AE Home Group. More sales mean an increase in the assessed value of properties in the area because, well, it’s proof positive that the neighborhood is more desirable—so the properties are too. Ergo, Jeff says, your property tax bill will go up. For the same reason, nearby construction can increase your home’s value too, including the addition of such amenities as parks, golf courses, or lakes, for example.
        Most counties assess the value of homes every few years, although in some states they are reassessed annually. When the time comes, your county’s assessor will appraise the value of your home based home additions, nearby construction, and comparable properties sold near you.https://www.architecturaldigest.com/story/property-taxes-what-makes-them-go-up

        • Adam Miller
          Adam Miller June 7, 2018 at 7:52 pm #

          Yeah, I knew that. Where you lose me is in assuming that a brand new luxury apartment complex is comparable to a 40 year old 2.5 story walk up.

          In other words, your house value goes up when someone pays more for a similar house. New luxury apartment buildings aren’t similar to old, inexpensive ones, nor is it clear that new luxury housing nearby is an amenity for anyone not living in it.

          What is clear, though, is that there’s demand for more exnpisive housing in that neighborhood or no one would want to build new luxury housing there.

        • Morgan Bird June 8, 2018 at 1:56 pm #

          Careful readers will note that this doesn’t actually require new construction and in fact happens just fine without it.

    • Morgan Bird June 8, 2018 at 1:54 pm #

      Do some research of your own. It’s a good catch phrase but that’s not at all Reagonomics was. “Trickle-down economics” was the claim that if you cut taxes on rich people eventually poor people will get some of it and it was not at all backed up by mainstream economists or economic theory. Upzoning to increase affordability is based on the very standard economic principle that artificial restriction of supply increases prices and it’s backed by both economists and actual research.

    • Chris Moseng
      Chris Moseng June 15, 2018 at 11:34 pm #

      I see, so the argument is that property should not be improved because it causes other nearby property to go up in value. This solution to the lack of affordable housing sounds like ghettos. Snazzy!

  9. Zach June 8, 2018 at 11:57 am #

    This piece is clearly taking aim at a certain demographic, finding fault with the single family neighborhoods that are presumed white, presumed financially stable and their concerns about density are presumed to have undercurrents of racism or classism. What do you say to the North Minneapolis neighborhoods where objections to this plan are also strong? Where they fear density as well for the new people it will bring to their neighborhoods and the possible increase in value to their homes that could impact affordability? Are they also being exclusionist? There was a really interesting article in Star Tribune last month or so and the feelings to keep out “other people” was strong.

    • Gary L. Cunningham June 16, 2018 at 12:03 am #

      Yes!

    • Bill Lindeke
      Bill Lindeke June 22, 2018 at 4:05 pm #

      I don’t know, I think a lot of the argument is just as relevant in North. It revolves around the key question: how Does an increase in density affect affordability?

    • Jeanette June 24, 2018 at 5:46 pm #

      This is the article, by Adam Belz, that I think Zach is referring to: http://www.startribune.com/growth-plan-for-minneapolis-gets-skeptical-reaction-on-north-side/478465733/

      It includes this sentence:

      “But increased density is low on the list of priorities over North, where 358 city-owned vacant lots sit empty waiting for a buyer, and at least 273 buildings are boarded up.”

      • Bill Lindeke
        Bill Lindeke June 25, 2018 at 9:08 am #

        Getting those houses up and running = increasing density, doesn’t it?

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