Bill’s land use rules could spark development and growth.

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Key Points:

  • Legislation debated to make sweeping alterations to state land use regulations
  • Sponsors hope changes will address issues of low affordable housing stock and climate change

In a recent meeting of the Housing Finance and Policy Committee, a bill was introduced that would impact statewide land use regulations in Minnesota. The proposed legislation, sponsored by Rep. Larry Kraft, aims to encourage the building of denser homes on lots previously zoned for single-family homes and require cities to allow multifamily unit buildings in commercial zoning districts. The bill received bipartisan support but faced opposition from the League of Minnesota Cities, citing concerns about preemption of existing land use policies and limitations on public input. Proponents of the bill, including a coalition of various interest groups, argue that the lack of affordable housing is a statewide issue that requires a different approach to zoning regulations. If passed, the bill could spur development and increase housing options at various cost levels in the state.

Full Article:

Legislation that would make sweeping alterations to the statewide land use regulations were debated at the Housing Finance and Policy Committee’s meeting Tuesday afternoon, with its sponsors hoping the changes will not only help address issues of low affordable housing stock but also climate change. If the bill makes its way through the Legislature and is signed by Gov. Tim Walz, it will make it difficult for city officials to prevent the building of denser homes, up to six-plex units, on lots that had previously been zoned for single-family homes. It will also require cities to allow multifamily unit buildings in commercial zoning districts. Sponsored by Rep. Larry Kraft, HF4009 was ultimately referred to the State and Local Government Finance and Policy Committee in a unanimous and bipartisan vote. Opponents of the bill were led by the League of Minnesota Cities. Daniel Lightfoot, representing the League, said the bill’s provisions would preempt its membership’s already existing land use policies. The bill, he said, would also prevent public input on the development process. “The prohibition on public hearings on most development projects even for residents that are directly impacted by a new development, among other strict limitations and prohibitions are concerning,” Lightfoot said during testimony. Kraft, a DFLer from St. Louis Park, said in an interview with Finance & Commerce that the lack of affordable housing is a statewide issue and cities inadvertently or “maybe intentionally” are sub-optimizing their land and don’t have the scope of what needs to be done to solve the problem. He cited his own experience sitting on a city council seat less than a year ago. “I really appreciate local control,” Kraft said. “But no city can resolve this issue on their own … we’re not mandating things; we’re saying more needs to be allowed and needs to happen with less friction in the system. But this is clearly a statewide issue that requires a different way of looking at it, the status quo isn’t working.” Supporters of the legislation were a coalition of various interest groups, such as labor, businesses, real estate, developers and some locally elected officials. Prior to the meeting, many groups under the coalition “Start with Home” held a rally in the Capitol rotunda, where many legislators, including housing chair Michael Howard, spoke. Some of those who spoke pointed to Minneapolis who previously banned single-family only zones before a lawsuit against the 2040 plan rolled back those regulations, and St. Paul, who in October, passed an ordinance getting rid of them. Paul Eger, the senior vice president for governmental affairs at the Minnesota Realtors, spoke in support of the legislation, and said the low supply and high demand of homes are causing prices to increase in the state. He said the bill would prevent potential developments from being derailed and spur the building of housing at all costs levels. Rep. Alicia Kozlowski spoke in support of the bill and had sponsored a previous bill that was merged with Kraft’s. Kozlowski, a DFLer from Duluth, referred to single-family only zoning as “restrictive growth policies” that were put in place to disadvantage Black, Brown and Indigenous would-be homeowners. Zoning rules, they argued, have been used as a weapon to keep some people out of desirable areas of cities. “Many communities have local policies that limit multifamily and the missing middle homes at a more affordable price point and this is actually a key driver of evictions, houselessness, and our housing shortage,” Kozlowski said. “Coded claims about how certain residents and the homes they live in may change the ‘community character’ does not deserve regulatory deference or state enforcement any longer.”

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