Zoning Reform Passed: St. Paul Greenlights Multi-Family Housing

1 min read
October 18, 2023
Photo by Steffen Coonan on Pexels.com

What’s new: 

After delaying zoning reforms for a week, the St. Paul City Council approved a zoning plan enabling the construction of multi-family residences on plots previously limited to single-family homes.

Why zoning reform matters: 

The Twin Cities are grappling with an 80,000-unit housing deficit. This zoning reform aims to combat rising rents, housing scarcity, and a competitive home-buying market. St. Paul’s push for housing reform aligns with its 2040 Comprehensive Plan, aspiring for better housing availability and affordability.


  • What’s changing: The newly minted plan divides St. Paul into two streamlined zoning districts. This change supports greater housing diversity, permitting duplexes, triplexes, and even cluster developments throughout the city.
  • Backing it up: “Investing in our housing supply now paves the way for affordable living and wealth-building for every resident,” emphasized St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter.
  • What sparked the change: This decision was influenced by Council Member Rebecca Noecker’s recent amendment, which considered a height adjustment for specific zones to aid modular housing developers.
  • Zoom out: While opponents raise concerns over traffic and parking, advocates underline that the reform remains within set boundaries for building height and open space. Since 1975, vast regions in St. Paul were designated for single-family homes. The city’s efforts challenge decades-old norms, ensuring more diverse housing solutions.
  • Looking to Minneapolis: After Minneapolis’s controversial zoning changes, St. Paul is cautious but optimistic. City leaders believe their revised approach, aligned with a longstanding comprehensive plan, will avert potential legal obstacles.

Between the lines: St. Paul’s approach is more than just an answer to housing shortages. It’s a strategic endeavor to foster a lively, sustainable city that supports local businesses, achieves climate objectives, and enhances walkability.

The bottom line: 

St. Paul’s bold zoning overhaul exemplifies a proactive approach as cities nationwide grapple with post-pandemic growth, housing costs, and NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) challenges. The outcomes of this reform could set a precedent for urban planning in the years to come.

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