Cities like Minneapolis and San Francisco are addressing the housing crisis in creative ways
Single-family zoning has been a staple of American cities for most of the past century. All over the US, zoning laws prohibit multi-family housing in certain areas. In cities like Los Angeles and Portland, over 3/4 of the residential land is designated for single-family units only.
To the lawmakers who put those laws in place, it seemed like a good idea. They could keep parts of the city from becoming more dense and prevent “undesirable” populations from moving into the “nicer” parts of town.
Today, we’re living with the consequences of that outdated thinking. Our cities are facing housing shortages. People can find work, but they can’t find housing. And thanks to supply and demand, housing costs are rising so fast that incomes can’t keep up.
Limiting multi-family housing to just a few small areas in a city just doesn’t work anymore. Those old laws are holding us back.
The dream of accessible housing is alive and well in Minneapolis
When the city of Minneapolis decided to address the problem, they made one huge change. According to The New York Times, 70% of Minneapolis’ residential land was formerly designated for single-family housing only. But the city council recently voted to allow triplex housing in areas once reserved for single units.
The plan will reduce emissions from long commutes, increase the amount of affordable housing in the city, and break down barriers.
California cities are making housing better a few small steps at a time
The housing crisis in California has hit hard in recent years. It’s become incredibly difficult, if not impossible, to find affordable housing in major cities. People working in the city have had to move in with relatives, cram their families into tiny, expensive apartments, or live far from their jobs and face long commutes.
In 2018, the California legislature took a huge step and made it easier for homeowners to build accessory dwellings.
Now, San Francisco is helping the push toward better housing by giving building owners the opportunity to legalize their unpermitted units. It’s just one sign that San Francisco, like many Bay Area cities, is committed to the dream of greener, more accessible cities.
The dream is becoming reality
By encouraging accessory dwellings, duplexes, and triplexes in areas that were once reserved for single-family dwellings, cities like Minneapolis and San Francisco are making a difference for everyone.
Seniors can stay in their neighborhoods as they age.
More children will have access to good schools and healthy neighborhoods.
More people will be able to live closer to work, reducing commutes and vehicle pollution.
Homeowners can rent out units, helping themselves and their tenants afford housing in high-demand areas.
There’s so much that cities can do to ease the housing crisis and help their citizens live healthier, happier lives. It takes big changes, like Minneapolis’ sweeping legislation, and small changes, like San Francisco’s efforts to legalize dangerous, unpermitted units.
Anything that makes housing better makes lives better, and we’re all for that.