Another American dream down the tubes in the name of diversity.
Via SF Gate:
In a bold move to address its affordable-housing crisis and confront a history of racist housing practices, Minneapolis has decided to eliminate single-family zoning, a classification that has long perpetuated segregation.
The Minneapolis City Council voted last Friday to get rid of the category and instead allow residential structures with up to three dwelling units — like duplexes and triplexes — in every neighborhood. Minneapolis is believed to be the first major city in the United States to approve such a change citywide.
Peggy Reinhardt, 75, an advocate who supported the decision, hopes the change will mean more housing options around her Uptown Minneapolis neighborhood. She sees young couples in apartments who cannot afford to scale up to $400,000 houses, while elderly residents nearby are “house rich and cash poor” and have few options to downsize in their neighborhood.
“It’s that missing middle,” she said.
As cities across the country contend with an affordable-housing crisis that has led to gentrification and homelessness, few have been willing to take on single-family zoning, a way of living that is fiercely protected by neighborhood groups. Portland, Oregon, is working on a plan to allow fourplexes in nearly all single-family neighborhoods, and Seattle is considering rezoning 6 percent of its single-family neighborhoods to include more housing.
In Minneapolis, the decision came as part of a sweeping plan to propel the city into the future by addressing issues like housing, racial equity and climate change. The plan, called Minneapolis 2040, drew thousands of public comments, “Don’t Bulldoze Our Neighborhoods” yard signs and a last-minute lawsuit, but ultimately passed on a 12-1 vote.
It will now go to a regional planning agency for review. City officials expect the zoning changes to go into effect sometime next year.
Experts say adding density to single-family neighborhoods is a powerful tool to address housing affordability and chip away at segregation. While going so far as to eliminate single-family zoning might not be politically possible everywhere — the Minneapolis City Council is made up of 12 Democrats and one Green Party member — success there could offer one model of what is possible.
“Minneapolis is not alone in being a city with a history of intentional segregation,” Mayor Jacob Frey said in an interview this week. “I’m hopeful that we’re not alone in undoing it.”
How zoning is a proxy for race
Single-family neighborhoods rose to prominence across the country after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1917 that zoning based on race was unconstitutional.
“Single-family zoning became basically the only option to try to maintain both race and class segregation,” said Jessica Trounstine, an associate professor of political science at the University of California, Merced, who has studied segregation.
In addition, generations of racial disparities in wealth accumulation, exacerbated by federally backed lending practices that discriminated against African-Americans, meant that most homeowners were white. “So if you make a particular part of the city homeowners only, then you essentially make that neighborhood restricted to whites,” Trounstine said.
Today, Minneapolis has a growing population of about 400,000 and is about 60 percent white, according to census statistics. The racial disparities are stark: Black and Native American babies in Minneapolis die at three to four times the rate of white babies. White residents, on average, make far more money than people of color. And nearly 60 percent of white households in Minneapolis own their home, while less than 25 percent of African-American, Native American and Hispanic households do, according to the city.
In its Minneapolis 2040 report, the city took the remarkable step of acknowledging — in writing — its own role in perpetuating that inequity.
Michael Lens, an associate professor of urban planning and public policy at the University of California, Los Angeles, said the city’s willingness to own up to the past was a necessary — but unusual — step in moving forward.
“It’s essential — and frequently not on the table,” said Lens, who is from Minneapolis’ twin city, St. Paul. “I think that’s great. ‘Minnesota nice’ in action.”