Could Ending Single-Family Zoning Stop Segregation?

December 13, 2018

The city of Minneapolis is confronting inequity in housing and has decided to abolish single-family zoning to do it. The Minneapolis City Council voted last Friday to get rid of its single-family zoning category, which officials believe perpetuates segregation. By doing so, the city will now allow residential structures with up to three dwelling units—such as duplexes and triplexes—in every neighborhood.

Ending single family zoning to stop segregation

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Minneapolis is believed to be the first major city in the country to make such a change to its zoning code, The New York Times reports. The zoning changes will likely take effect next year, but the city still faces a regional planning agency review. In a last-minute move, disgruntled residents sued to try to stop the city’s action. However, the Council still voted to end single-family zoning in a vote 12-1. Some residents said they fear a tall apartment building will now be built next door to their homes.

By adding density to single-family neighborhoods, city officials believe they’ll be able to address housing affordability head-on and end segregation. Up to 60 percent of Minneapolis is zoned as single-family only.

“We don’t have enough homes for people who want to live here,” Lisa Bender, the city council president, told The New York Times. “Increasing our housing supply is part of the solution.”

Other cities may follow suit in trying to address an affordable housing crisis that has led to gentrification and homelessness in their cities. Portland, Ore., is considering a plan to allow fourplexes in nearly all single-family neighborhoods. Seattle officials are considering rezoning 6 percent of its single-family neighborhoods to include more housing.

“Minneapolis is not alone in being a city with a history of intentional segregation,” Mayor Jacob Frey told The New York Times. “I’m hopeful that we’re not alone in undoing it.”