Minneapolis

Progressive Minneapolis Just Passed One of the Most Deregulatory Housing Reforms in the Country

Urban liberals are won over to libertarian policies, if not libertarian politics.

|

Policymakers looking to bring down housing costs across the country may want to follow the example of Minneapolis, which just passed one of the most sweeping housing reforms in the nation.

George Mdivanian/Dreamstime.com

On Friday, the Minneapolis City Council approved its comprehensive plan, Minneapolis 2040, which lays policies for managing the city's growth over the next 20 years. The most promising, and most controversial, provisions of the 1,100-page plan are changes to the city's zoning code that will let triplexes be built where once only single-family homes were permitted and will allow larger apartment buildings to be constructed along transit corridors.

Free marketers should celebrate the vote. Government limits on the buildings' height and density are both a major restriction on property rights and a big driver of housing costs in America's growing urban areas.

Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey made the latter point following the city council's 12–1 vote approving the plan. "When you have demand that is sky-high, and you don't have the supply to keep up with it, prices rise. Rents rise. That's what we're seeing," Frey told CityLab.

That Frey—a solid progressive who has spent his time in government helping to pass paid sick leave and a $15 minimum wage—has embraced the logic of supply and demand on housing demonstrates the growing transpartisan consensus that government regulation is killing off affordable housing in America's cities.

Illya Somin recently made that point over at The Volokh Conspiracy, pointing out that the coalition to hack away at local zoning laws includes not just free market Rothbardians but center-left commenters like Paul Krugman, Vox's Matt Yglesias, and Obama economic advisor Jason Furman. Left-leaning website Slate has given Minneapolis' citywide upzoning a glowing review.

There is still plenty in the plan that libertarians are not going to like. Those new triplexes must still conform to existing limitations on the height and massing of single-family homes, for instance. And allowing multifamily apartment buildings only on transit corridors is itself an attempt to encourage a particular lifestyle, even if the policy change is deregulatory on the margins.

And while it upzones, Minneapolis politicians have simultaneously advanced other housing policies that are hardly pro-market, including an inclusionary zoning ordinance—which requires that new apartment developments come with rent-controlled units—and some $40 million in government funding for low-income housing.

Property rights were also largely absent from the talking points of upzoning proponents.

Folks like Frey and Minneapolis City Councilmember Lisa Bender—a major champion of the comprehensive plan—focused their comments on structural racism and climate change. Pro-housing activists such as the Minneapolis group Neighbors For More Neighbors invoked colonial and patriarchal land use patterns as well as the need to foster more small businesses.

While all this in some sense shows the limits of how much can be expected from left-leaning land use reformers, it is nonetheless encouraging to see progressive hearts and minds won over to some libertarian policy proposals, if not necessarily to libertarian politics.

Indeed it raises hopes that current efforts to deregulate housing construction in solidly blue places like California—where past upzoning efforts have come to naught—might succeed with the right message.

Advertisement

NEXT: Human Trafficking Grant Goes to Arrest Suspected Victims in Tucson

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. Free marketers should celebrate the vote.

    Were all the restrictions lifted? No? There are still plenty?

    Maybe a sigh of relief is in order, but save your celebrations.

    1. Dammit, I just bought party hats. Well there’s always 2020 and the McAfee inauguration party.

    2. It’s total authoritarian central planning. There’s nothing free market about it at all. There’s likely some crony-landlordism component.

      1. I don’t think so. My future relatives-in-law include someone who lives in Minneapolis, and showed up at the hearings trying to stop the triplexes, because NIMBYism liberals gotta statist. If he’s so deadset agin that provision, I’m pretty sure it’s a huge improvement.

        1. Your relatives-in-law clearly don’t have the clout of triplex developers. Of course I have no idea what these triplexes are. If they’re in a prime location they could be luxury condos, if they’re not they could be tenements.

    3. Progressives have literally tried everything else to make housing affordable, and everything they have done has been counter productive. As soon as prices drop low enough that they can get away with it politically, they will fuck it up immediately.

      Then after their next idiotic scheme fails miserably, they will blame that failure on the policy that was actually working.

  2. 1,100-page plan are changes to the city’s zoning code that will let triplexes be built where once only single-family homes were permitted and will allow larger apartment buildings to be constructed along transit corridors.

    I’m curious to see how this plays out. This is always one of those things that can get opposition from surprising sectors and interest groups.

    1. 1100 page plans are seldom likely to be libertarian. Libertarian plans tend to be one or two sentences.

    2. 1100 page plans are seldom likely to be libertarian. Libertarian plans tend to be one or two sentences.

    3. What will happen is that the people who live in single family houses will protest the construction of triplexes in their neighborhoods because it will devalue their homes.

  3. As someone who used to talk frequently with the Mpls city government, I can guarantee you there isn’t the slightest interest in a hands off. Whatever was passed is intended to further cement the government’s role in housing in Mpls.

    Transit corridors is probably the critical phrase in this – my guess is this is how they will boost mass transit numbers to further the New Yorkification of Mpls. OMG, we have all these people living in these high density developments and they don’t have anywhere to park…

    I’m so glad I got out of there.

    1. You know what Minneapolis needs? Bike lanes. Bike lanes everywhere.

      1. Could they double as cross country slush-ski lanes for the other 8 months of the year?

      2. Skate lanes. Everyone can skate to hockey practice!

      3. Already have them……

      4. They got bike lanes criss crossing the city – and you know what? It’s 20 degrees outside, and I see about two on them per day. But bike lanes are the least of the worries – it’s the multi billion dollar 19th century trolleys that they really love.

        1. And for all of that, the bicyclists band together and ride down the center of the street blocking traffic in the most obnoxious way they can think of. I have no idea what they are trying to prove.

        2. We were going to get those damned trollies and the a miracle occurred! Obama appointed our idiot Mayor to lead HUD. Soon as that jackass left, the project cratered. One thing Obama did I heartily applaud.

    2. As someone who used to talk frequently with the Mpls city government

      I can think of few things worse..

      1. I lived just west of Lake Harriet. People with no visible means of support working all day to increase the role of government and patting themselves on the back for their virtue.

  4. How does a guy that’s in favor of artificially imposed labor prices go about deregulating housing? How do those two things live together side-by-side in the same skull?

    1. They’re not “deregulating” housing.They’re just changing the regulations.

      1. Exactly. I guarantee you they don’t see this as a deregulatory scheme at all. My guess would be that they would fight tooth and nail if you tried to classify it in this manner.

        1. I’m guessing they’re for it because increasing urban density means more prog voters, solidifying their control.

          1. Bigger tax base, More public transportation “demand”….

      2. “They’re not “deregulating” housing.They’re just changing the regulations.”

        Exactly. Smoke and mirrors. Just like marijuana law changes, you’re just differently regulated. The state increases its power and its tax base.

  5. let triplexes be built where once only single-family homes were permitted’

    be careful it may mean you can now only build triplexes where you were once able to build single family

    1. That which isn’t banned is mandatory. Their authoritarianism is blatamt

  6. Good. Small victories wherever they may appear.

  7. And yet there’s plenty of room for libertarians to be pro-zoning.

    When you buy a house in a single-family zone, the existing zoning is part of your property rights. You don’t want a giant apartment block built next door. Drastically relaxing the zoning is a violation of existing residents’ property rights.

    1. They aren’t rezoning your property though (at least not usually how it works, even with these comprehensive plans). And they aren’t rezoning single family into multi-family apartments. Hell, they’re not even rezoning to allow zero lot line.

      And no, you don’t have a property right to force your neighbors to keep the zoning you want them to have. Even still, most cities require a public hearing where the property owner explains what they want to do and why and the general public is allowed to express their opinions on these actions before the Planning and Zoning Commission makes it’s final decision.

      1. I think the argument here is that if you want to build apartments, don’t buy property that’s not zoned for them and then try to get the rules changed. Kind of like how people fleeing progressive hellholes often attempt to institute the same sort of policies that created those hellholes in the first place.

        1. I think the argument here is that if you want to build apartments, don’t buy property that’s not zoned for them and then try to get the rules changed

          Why not? Current law and practice allows both for zoning restrictions and for changing zoning / “having the rules change”.

          That is, just because you buy into a neighborhood with one kind of zoning, you have no reasonable expectation that zoning will stay the same in perpetuity, because zoning isn’t a property right or contractual obligation, it’s a political decision, subject to the whims of voters and their representatives.

          1. In a libertarian society, you probably would see this managed at the local level. In a neighborhood, you would get an HOA type of contract, and that would factor into your purchase decision. Naturally those contracts would have rules for how the type and size of structures changes.

            In most towns you actually get the opposite effect. People move into an area, and then try shutting down projects by getting them rezoned. My current city is vastly under-supplied with multi-family dwellings. And that is because the local home owners fight tooth and nail to prevent multi-tenant properties being built. And if an existing multi-tenant tries to expand or replace with larger, they will see their zone changed on them. It is a pitty, because we live in one of the few enclaves with an older mix of appartments, single family detached, townhomes and condos. My kids’ friends are from a broad spectrum of the economy, which has helped them get out of the bubble I see a lot of these gated community kids get into.

            1. The only “libertarian” solution is to fight tooth and nail against all zoning regulation. We need zoning like we need another hole in the head. Zoning is capricious, arbitrary, and changed upon the whims of the current city council and it’s planning boards.

              Question: Is there any city where it’s legal to pitch a tepee and live in it? I doubt it.

              1. Probably Tucson. Tohono O’odham Nation Reservation.

        2. Urban development 101 is buy property low from owners who can’t get it rezoned, persuade city to rezone it (preferably before you close the deal but without informing the seller), rezone, get special tax breaks, build, sell, PROFIT.

  8. not just free market Rothbardians but center-left commenters like Paul Krugman, Vox’s Matt Yglesias, and Obama economic advisor Jason Furman

    I’m almost old enough to remember when Rothbard himself was trying to work with the far left rather than the authoritarian-left

  9. Everybody’s in favor of higher-density housing in a mixed-use community because it’s more efficient in terms of money and infrastructure and environmental impact. They just don’t want it near them. Everybody wants to save the world, nobody wants to help mom do the dishes.

  10. That Frey?a solid progressive who has spent his time in government helping to pass paid sick leave and a $15 minimum wage?has embraced the logic of supply and demand on housing demonstrates the growing transpartisan consensus that government regulation is killing off affordable housing in America’s cities.

    Bullshit. Frey just replaced one set of regulations with a different set of regulations. That’s not “deregulation”, nor is it any “transpartisan consensus”.

  11. “Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey made the latter point following the city council’s 12?1 vote approving the plan. “When you have demand that is sky-high, and you don’t have the supply to keep up with it, prices rise. Rents rise. That’s what we’re seeing,” Frey told CityLab.”

    The man would be tarred and feathered in San Francisco.

  12. Ah, Minnesota…..I am from New Orleans, and was sent there in 1967 to an IBM school, when I was hired in the south, during winter. I almost died, when the temp reached minus 37 degrees, one night, and my southern car would not start.

    Shortly thereafter, in Slidell, LA, I built my first house for 600 bucks, using used lumber, and free labor from my family and friends. No permits, no problem. Later in PA, I was building an underground concrete dome in a rural area, and was stopped by bureaucrats many times, and finally gave up, sold my land, and moved to Mexico, where I have built about 25 houses, mostly with NO PERMITS…Big Brother, leave me alone….

  13. Property rights were also largely absent from the talking points of upzoning proponents.

    Folks like Frey and Minneapolis City Councilmember Lisa Bender?a major champion of the comprehensive plan?focused their comments on structural racism and climate change . . . . it is nonetheless encouraging to see progressive hearts and minds won over to some libertarian policy proposals.

    Yeah, they don’t give a shit if taxation is theft.

    Convince them that taxation is racism, and they might get serious.

  14. “Folks like Frey and Minneapolis City Councilmember Lisa Bender?a major champion of the comprehensive plan?focused their comments on structural racism and climate change”

    This sentence offers a cornucopia of possibilities.

    So . . . um . . . “structural racism”. Is that like structural unemployment vs. cyclical?

    What is cyclical and structural racism like? Let me guess: It has nothing to do with individuals actually discriminating against each other. It’s about society and culture! Not things that people actually do or don’t do, amirite?

    How fucking typical if racism isn’t about what actual people actually do anymore.

  15. “Folks like Frey and Minneapolis City Councilmember Lisa Bender?a major champion of the comprehensive plan?focused their comments on structural racism and climate change”

    Cornucopia!

    So, now that they’ve got these revised zoning ordinances, how much can we expect the climate to change?

  16. Indeed it raises hopes that current efforts to deregulate housing construction in solidly blue places like California?where past upzoning efforts have come to naught?might succeed with the right message.

    No it won’t succeed in CA. If CA does the exact same thing, it will fail in CA. If CA does exactly what Reason says is the best thing, it will fail in CA. NOTHING will succeed in CA. If we come back in 20 years, NOW will be viewed as the golden age of affordable housing in CA cuz things are only gonna get worse. And then worse. And then worse again.

  17. Did you see the name “2040 plan”?? Hide. Run far away. Move to South Dakota. They don’t even care to disguise it. When they put a year out there, or a set date (5 year plan!), you don’t need a seance with Mao to know you are about to get completely fucked.

    1. It’s a great leap forward.

  18. This is a plan that mandates shattering old established (read ‘white’ here) owner occupied neighborhoods in favor of prefab ghettoization–because it’s not just triplexes, but triplexes with affordable housing quotas (read ‘places we can put black people’ here).

    It does nothing any libertarian would be associated with.

    There is zero ‘deregulation’–but a lot of regulation densification.

    Further it is precisely in line with progressives stated goal of dense urbanization.

    How much longer will it be before Reason is telling us that freedom is slavery?

  19. So in short, they did nothing libertarian… They just changed the non libertarian zoning laws to allow higher density…

    Not the same thing guys. If they had removed all restrictions on building city wide that would be libertarian… But they didn’t. This may be good for property owners in the arbitrary areas they upzoned who want to sell out, but it is nothing to cheer.

  20. I essentially started three weeks past and that i makes $385 benefit $135 to $a hundred and fifty consistently simply by working at the internet from domestic. I made ina long term! “a great deal obliged to you for giving American explicit this remarkable opportunity to earn more money from domestic. This in addition coins has adjusted my lifestyles in such quite a few manners by which, supply you!”. go to this website online domestic media tech tab for extra element thank you .

    http://www.Mesalary.com

  21. Anyon Consulting LLC is a website intelligence company located in MN, if you need more information you can visit https://anyonconsulting.com/.

  22. We make sense of your data
    For over 10 years we’ve been working with various information systems to streamline processes, help management make intelligent decisions and optimize workflows. Our strength in analytics combined with custom software design helped us achieve great customer satisfaction over the course of time.
    Anyon Consulting, LLC. specializes in MySQL and Microsoft SQL server environments, custom software development data analysis and report building. We also provide web analytics services to optimize report and improve online presence. We are located in Minnesota United States with offices in three continents.

    https://anyonconsulting.com/750-2/about/

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.