Map Monday: New Construction and Vacancy Rates in Minneapolis

Homes And Vacancies

The neighborhoods with the lowest vacancy rates are not seeing many new homes being built.

We know that Minneapolis and it environs have a historically, dangerously low vacancy rate. The proportion of homes that are for sale or for rent is far less than a healthy five percent, so renters and buyers compete for empty units, and sellers and landlords make more money than they would otherwise. We need more homes, so that everyone who wants to live here can.

Is the new housing we’re building going in the areas with the lowest vacancy rates? I looked at data from the American Community Survey and the City Assessor, and I’d say not really. Almost a third of the city’s census tracts (36 of 116) have an extremely low vacancy rate (below one percent), but less than a quarter of the city’s new housing was built in these areas. Most of the very tight census tracts built homes at a slower rate than the city as a whole.

Different neighborhoods face different obstacles to getting enough housing. In wealthier low-vacancy neighborhoods, like Lowry Hill and Lynnhurst, new housing is kept out by zoning laws that prohibit new apartments. Minneapolis 2040 was a big step toward breaking down this barrier. Once the Met Council approves it and the City of Minneapolis adopts it, people will be able to convert mansions into duplexes or triplexes, and teardowns can be replaced by multifamily housing instead of just detached houses.

But the comprehensive plan probably won’t result in more housing in low-income neighborhoods. Investors pass over poorer areas with few vacancies in Seward, Powderhorn, and Willard-Hay, even though there are sites with permissive zoning. This is because developers are drawn to higher rents in the proven markets in Downtown, Uptown, and by the University. Without public intervention, the market will fail to build more homes in poor neighborhoods with tight housing markets, resulting in frustrated buyers and vulnerable renters.

A nonprofit neighborhood-based community development corporation, Seward Redesign (disclosure: also my employer), is asking the City of Minneapolis for support to build mixed-income housing in a low-income, low-vacancy neighborhood, and City Council will vote on it on Friday, April 19th. is a non-profit and is volunteer run. We rely on your support to keep the servers running. If you value what you read, please consider becoming a member.

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20 Responses to Map Monday: New Construction and Vacancy Rates in Minneapolis

  1. Alex Schieferdecker
    Alex Schieferdecker April 8, 2019 at 12:40 pm #

    [thinking face emoji]

  2. Bill Lindeke
    Bill Lindeke April 8, 2019 at 12:41 pm #

    Great map. Seems like 90% or more of the new apartments are downtown, uptown, or within a 1/2 mile of the U of MN.

  3. Adam Miller
    Adam Miller April 8, 2019 at 1:35 pm #

    Compare the swathe of South Minneapolis red, following the creek and lakes, with the 1934 redlining map:

    • Rosa April 8, 2019 at 2:26 pm #

      That’s amazing. It makes sense once I think about it but that is so persistent.

  4. Eric Anondson
    Eric Anondson April 8, 2019 at 5:41 pm #

    This is good data. I know so much of maps of population trends is done using census tracts, but I wish census blocks were used instead. Better granularity in the detail.

  5. Bruce Brunner
    Bruce Brunner April 8, 2019 at 9:27 pm #

    I’d like to add housing in Seward too-sign me up! Keep up the great work

  6. Bill Lindeke
    Bill Lindeke April 9, 2019 at 11:47 am #

    I do not think that is true at all, but it’s certainly a stereotype that’s been used in the past in ways that foster race and class inequality.

    • Eric Anondson
      Eric Anondson April 9, 2019 at 12:15 pm #

      Deny housing to cure crime … kinda like move homeless away to cure homelessness.

  7. Tom Basgen
    Tom Basgen April 9, 2019 at 7:47 pm #

    Moderator here.
    A comment was deleted because it was falsely stereotyping folks. fosters constructive conversation. It does not tolerate dog whistles.

  8. karen Nelson April 10, 2019 at 4:43 pm #

    This is great, very helpful!

    Any chance a St. Paul version coming? Would be really interesting to see metro wide trends also.

  9. karen Nelson April 10, 2019 at 4:47 pm #

    also, it seems like transit matters, seems like building around transit one big driver of development.

    As aBRT routes are added to north and along Chicago, may spur more development in other areas of city.

  10. Mike April 10, 2019 at 9:10 pm #

    It does seem a positive that the most dense development is happening along the major transit routes in the city where the infrastructure is best equipped for having a lot more residents.

    • Rosa April 10, 2019 at 11:04 pm #

      and building housing in those old light industrial areas doesn’t displace any existing housing.

      But, there is other infrastructure people want – parks, desireable schools, stuff like that. Transportation isn’t the only kind of infrastructure that’s worth building near.

      • Mike April 11, 2019 at 12:06 pm #

        True, but in Minneapolis we have an embarrassment of riches in that regards, those same dense build locations in Uptown, Downtown, along the U of M/River are destination areas for parks too – and school choice!

    • Scott Shaffer
      Scott Shaffer April 17, 2019 at 4:11 pm #

      It’s true that there is a lot of development has good transit service, but some of the areas seeing apartment booms aren’t served by the high-frequency service network: farther north Loop, Marcy Holmes, and Lake Street west of the lakes. (Maybe that’s an argument to extend, realign, and upgrade some routes to serve the new residents.)

      And some areas with the best transit service are seeing almost no construction: Franklin and the Blue Line, Lake and the Blue Line, and Chi-Lake. If you break it down by housing with income restrictions vs. market-rate homes, the concentration is even starker.

  11. Andrew Evans April 12, 2019 at 12:40 pm #

    I’m not sure how valuable those circles are, with the size limits they are. It would be better, IMO, to see them grow with the number of units, than be rounded down it seems to the next lower band.

    The PPL apartments on Lyndale and Lowry, more than likely are a single dot here, when they represent 75 units. I’m willing to bet there are other projects in North and elsewhere that didn’t cross the 100 unti threshold and are reported as a single house.

    • Adam Miller
      Adam Miller April 12, 2019 at 2:42 pm #

      Pretty sure the dots are proportionate to the number of units. At least to my eyes, there’s more than three sizes of dot.

      • Andrew Evans April 12, 2019 at 3:38 pm #

        Then that project is missing, and I’d have to start to question what else isn’t reported and thus the value of it.

        • Scott Shaffer
          Scott Shaffer April 17, 2019 at 3:17 pm #

          Adam’s right that the size of the markers are proportional to the number of units, but good catch on that PPL lot! There are three rows for parcel 1002924320199, and I mistakenly visualized the wrong row, which said it had 0 units. The assessor data is better reflected in an interactive shiny/leaflet map that I made. I’d be happy to allay concerns about bias/transparency by sharing the code I wrote to develop this visualization:

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