Just gonna quote Nick at length
I will readily admit that much of the controversy in that public discussion stems from some apparent contradictions. On one hand, the Minneapolis 2040 plan would be the most progressive and far-reaching land use plan in America in the modern era. Which sounds dramatic! But the thing is—and we haven’t done a great job of communicating this—these changes will necessarily be very incremental.
That’s it: we want to allow triplexes. There’s no mandate, no City-funded initiative. No one is banning single family houses. Those triplexes would have to be within the building envelope of what’s currently allowed, so where you can currently build a 3,000 square foot single family house, you could build three 1,000 square foot units.
It’s just an option. An option to age in place by subdividing your big, old empty house. Or an option to create more affordable housing units in parts of the city that currently have a $100,000 down-payment toll booth set up at their entrances. Or an option to keep your big, old empty house the same as it’s been for 80 years.
I think it’s extremely useful to reflect on our current zoning. Right now, in Minneapolis, there are thousands of single family houses zoned for something more than single family houses. Check out the map! In neighborhoods across the city, most of the area between 38th Street and Lowry Avenue, in Whittier and Marcy-Holmes and Longfellow, there are houses zoned R2 and higher. Today, there are single family houses on commercial streets like Hennepin Avenue that are zoned for multi-family buildings. There are single family houses inside the downtown freeway loop in Loring Park and Elliot Park.
And our experience has been that not too many of those houses get torn down to build a duplex, or triplex, or apartment building. It happens, but the vast majority of housing units that have been added in the past ten years have been added on vacant lots, surface parking, single story commercial buildings, and the like. The handful of houses that have been demolished for multi-family residential pales in comparison to the number of houses that have been torn down for larger, more expensive single family houses.
A bit of a bummer, but no surprise at all to see the low number of triplexes, especially with the pandemic and economic crash coming so soon after triplexes were actually legalized in January. The lack of FAR bonuses for duplexes and triplexes is a problem that came baked in with the politics of passing the plan. The good news is that city staff is proposing some FAR bonuses in the Interior 3 zone. That's the minimum in the area between Hiawatha, Hennepin, Lake, and I-94. Marcy Holmes and St. Anthony south of Broadway are also Interior 3. Hopefully in future iterations, the comp plan can be amended to expand the Interior 3 zone.