The St. Paul City Council is set to reexamine a zoning reform bill on Oct. 18th that could pave the way for duplexes and denser developments. This decision comes after an amendment by Council Member Rebecca Noecker, allowing a two-foot height increase for certain residential zones. The reason? To better accommodate three-story structures as requested by modular housing developers.
Why it Matters
St. Paul has long been dominated by single-family housing (SFH), a product of 1975 zoning that made large areas for only SFH. Before the 1975 zoning shift, duplexes were almost everywhere in the city. More than half of the city’s housing supply falls under this category. This comes when many residents find home-buying and renting in St. Paul (and everywhere else in the US) unaffordable.
About the Zoning Reform
Between the lines: Minneapolis faced legal challenges in its attempt to introduce triplexes in residential zones. St. Paul believes its approach is more nuanced. The endgame is to end SFH-only zoned districts, a departure from half a century of zoning norms.
Key changes include:
- Consolidating six residential zoning categories into two (H1 and H2) for simplicity and clarity.
- Introducing multi-family apartment buildings, with up to six units, near major transit corridors.
- The potential for more housing units if developers focus on affordable housing or three-bedroom apartments.
National trends showcase slow demographic growth, still determining how cities will grow in a post-pandemic era marked by remote work and rising housing costs. Not to mention, Not In My Back Yard interests and judges are hellbent on preventing the construction of housing that they dislike.
St. Paul is taking significant steps to address housing concerns by revisiting past zoning decisions to create a more inclusive city. Yet, as with any significant change, there are potential hurdles and differing viewpoints on the best way forward.