Matt Steele: Zoning Contributes to Unaffordability

There’s an Ethiopian proverb that goes something like, “When spider webs unite, they can tie up a lion.” When it comes to housing, Minneapolitans may have it better than those in Seattle, San Francisco, D.C., and Brooklyn, but a larger and wider slice of Minneapolis is feeling the pinch of fast-rising rents. For some, this even means displacement or possibly even homelessness. This is unacceptable. And it doesn’t have to be this way, because we could eliminate artificial caps on housing supply in Minneapolis, thereby reducing equilibrium rents and making housing more affordable for more people. If every dwelling unit is like a little barely-visible spider web, it may seem like a unit here or two units there won’t make a big difference. But, on the whole, the economics are sound: Rising supply necessarily lowers rents.

No, I’m not going to claim that upzoning is the panacea to housing affordability. But our current zoning code is working against natural housing supply, and that’s working against housing affordability. It seems like such an easy, obvious win to get rid of the barriers to new housing stock in our city.

To understand how our zoning code is restrictive to the point of being harmful to housing affordability, let’s look at a real life example...

The reader comments to this article are worth reading as well.