Single Family Housing Banned in Minneapolis

Wow, that seems pretty extreme, as reported by New Geography.

An excerpt.

In a recent article published in Housing Wire (and in many other places), it was told that Minneapolis will abolish single family housing as part of the Metropolitan Councils 2040 plan. Much of the reason seems to be based on the idea that people in single family homes are discriminating against minorities and the poor, who can only afford apartments, although of course many people of color own homes, or would like to.

Yet, it is not at all reasonable to assume that new high density multi-family housing will fulfill the expectations of the social engineering crowd. And at the same time, it may weaken the very strong community and neighborhood structure that has made Minneapolis such an appealing place.

When I moved to Minneapolis in 1983 from Dallas and Houston, (and originally from Detroit), I was amazed at the lack of blight. Living in the Detroit area, you can drive for hours south of 8 Mile Road and not see affluent well kept neighborhoods – just blighted areas that resembled leftovers from a war zone. Yet, drive for hours around Minneapolis – a city similar in age to Detroit, and you would be hard pressed to find any area that could be considered even remotely downtrodden.

Coming from Detroit and later from Houston, there was a racial undertone to both. Yes, things have improved over the decades but the divide still remains. This underlying racism was something I hated about living in Detroit, and to a lesser extent in Houston. In 1983, when I moved to Minneapolis, the racism seemed almost non-existent at the time, but back then the city was mostly white Nordic-Germanic of populous.

In Detroit, the wealthy flashed their success in their clothes, cars, and homes, and those that cannot afford such luxuries sometimes felt compelled their credit as a way of financing the appearance of being a ‘class above’. This too always bothered me. When I moved to Minneapolis, the person passing in an old Pontiac and conservatively dressed could be a janitor or CEO of a major corporation. Yes, they probably lived in a Lake Minnetonka Mansion, but did not likely flash their wealth as in other cities. This also was refreshing.

When we wrote the chapter in our book titled Prefurbia on redevelopment of blighted cities, we were going to take some local pictures but could not find a single area that could be described as blight. Instead, I used pictures that I took in Detroit!

Of course, the city has changed since I’ve moved here, it’s less ‘white’ and more racially mixed, but the areas of concentrated poverty are still very low for a major city.

Minneapolis’ problem is not that there are too many single family homes – it’s that the real estate prices are too high to justify low density redevelopment. Allow me to explain. If a developer wanted to re-develop a 10 acre area in Detroit, they would pay almost nothing for the land. Not so in Minneapolis. Because there is no such blight, even the land under the worst existing homes would cost at least $100,000 to buyout each existing home – possibly more. Assuming that the 10 acres in Detroit or Minneapolis would be in a tight ‘urban grid’ layout, about 40% of that 10 acres would be in the form of street and right-of-ways as well as easements. Assuming that in both cases, the right-of-ways and easements could be abandoned – much of that area could in theory be recaptured to create a more cohesive ‘neighborhood’. e can also assume the city grid would be at a density about 5 homes to the acre. So, 10 acres X 5 = 50 homes x $100,000 = 5 million dollars for the Minneapolis site vs. $5 for the blighted Detroit land.

Retrieved December 19, 2018 from

About David H Lukenbill

I am a native of Sacramento, as are my wife and daughter. I am a consultant to nonprofit organizations, and have a Bachelor of Science degree in Organizational Behavior and a Master of Public Administration degree, both from the University of San Francisco. We live along the American River with two cats and all the wild critters we can feed. I am the founding president of the American River Parkway Preservation Society and currently serve as the CFO and Senior Policy Director. I also volunteer as the President of The Lampstand Foundation, a nonprofit organization I founded in 2003.
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