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Shifting Priorities for Single-Family Zoning

residential segregation in housingAs lawmakers in states such as Oregon and California move to end zoning exclusively for single-family homes, The New York Times takes a look at what is moving cities to begin to do away with zoning for the traditional single-family home.

NYT notes that the Oregon legislature this month will consider a law that would end zoning exclusively for single-family homes in most of the state, while California lawmakers have drafted a bill that would effectively do the same. These lawmakers state that this change is necessary, “ amid mounting crises over housing affordability, racial inequality and climate change.”

Minneapolis will end single-family zoning city wide as well, across zoning on 70%of the city’s residential land, or 53% of all land. According to Minneapolis director of long-range planning Heather Worthington, a drastic change such as this was the best option.

If we were going to pick and choose, the fight I think would have been even bloodier,” Worthington told NYT.

According to Urban footprint, converting 5% of Minneapolis’s largest single-family plots into triplexes would create 6,200 new units of housing. Despite the benefits proposed by lawmakers, Minnepolis’s plan has drawn criticism.

“What we’re selling here in Minneapolis — or what our planning department and our city council are selling — is that we’re new, we’re state of the art, we’re cutting-edge, we’re virtue signaling,” said Lisa McDonald on NYT, a former Minneapolis City Council member.

According to McDonald, the reality of the plan is that Minneapolis is “giving itself away to developers,” building market-rate housing, but not any new affordable housing, stating to “beware these promises.”

According to the NYT, these advocates for curbing single-family zoning are not pushing a new idea, but rather, are lobbying for “a return to the past.”

“Many Minneapolis blocks today date to before the 1920s, with duplexes or small apartment buildings next to single-family homes,” the NYT stated. “For years, those older buildings have been considered “nonconforming,” as the law changed around them. Under Minneapolis’s new plan, that distinction will end, too."

About Author: Seth Welborn

Seth Welborn is a contributing writer for DS News. He is a Harding University graduate with a degree in English and a minor in writing, and has studied abroad in Athens, Greece. An East Texas native, he also works part-time as a photographer.
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