The 90s weren’t bad, as far as decades go; there were colorful sweaters, Steve Urkel, and bracelets that you put on by violently attacking your wrist with them.
The decade was a mixed blessing for Minneapolis, however; our state’s ample supply of refugee-services non-profits fueled an influx of immigrants, who proceeded to revitalize many commercial areas; but in the meantime almost no residential buildings of consequence were built in the city. Recently I attempted to document all multifamily and row/townhomes built here in the postwar era; in the 90s I found a total of 2,346 units built, less than any other decade. Instead, tacky single-family homes were built, for example this one:
In today’s Community Development Committee meeting, the city will decide whether to sell a parcel to Habitat for Humanity for development of a single-family home. Normally I’m okay with Habitat operating in the city. Even though we have already have more than enough single-family homes in Minneapolis, Habitat is at least addressing the affordable housing crisis.
This parcel, however, is primed for multifamily development. It lies a wide but walkable distance from Hiawatha LRT (a half-mile), but it is a block or two from three bus routes, meaning it is ideal for transit-oriented development.
But Alex, in Minneapolis we pretend that you need a 40′ wide lot just to build a single-family home. So if this lot is only 40′ wide, how will you cram a whole multifamily building in there?
Well, to the north of this parcel is not one but two city-owned, vacant parcels. And to the south is an additional vacant parcel, in private hands. These parcels would be ideal for the type of development that occurred at the north end of the block – basically a typical English urban model of attached single-family. Unfortunately even those had to be up-zoned to R4 in order to get built, because Minneapolis is so eager to become Richfield that it categorizes small-scale traditional urban housing with dense low-rise apartment buildings.
One of two things need to happen if Minneapolis is going to achieve its sustainability goals – either the R2B district needs to be amended to allow attached housing on smaller lots or wide swaths of the city need to be up-zoned to R4. Housing is a 100-year investment; we need to stop wasting the limited space of our central neighborhoods on inefficient types of housing. Others have argued effectively that “location efficiency is more important than home efficiency,” but there are only so many efficient locations to go around. Habitat for Humanity is welcome to provide its affordable but wasteful single-family homes in relatively less-efficient locations, but let’s save our prime central neighborhood locations for buildings that will allow more than one family to enjoy them.