Housing Policy

Minnesota Is Latest State to Consider Ban on Single-Family Zoning

State legislators want to allow duplexes statewide and eliminate local governments' ability to impose aesthetic design requirements.


Minneapolis became a national leader in housing reform in 2018 when it eliminated single-family-only zoning to allow three-unit homes citywide.

Now a bipartisan group of Minnesota state lawmakers is following suit by introducing a package of a dozen bills that would pare back zoning regulations across the state, reform the way fees are charged to developers, and limit local governments' ability to micromanage how new homes look.

Senate File (S.F.) 4064, authored by Sens. Richard Draheim (R–Madison Lake) and John A. Hoffman (D/FL–Champlin), would allow the construction of duplexes on all residential land currently zoned to only allow single-family homes.

Should that bill pass, Minnesota would become the second state to officially abolish single-family zoning.

Oregon was the first to do that in 2019, passing legislation that allows duplexes on all residential land in towns of 10,000 or more people, and four-unit homes on all residential land in communities of more than 25,000 people. California, by allowing homeowners to build up to two accessory dwelling units on their property, has also effectively eliminated single-family-only zoning.

Other bills authored or sponsored by Draheim—who chaired a select committee on housing affordability—would go further.

That includes a bill that would limit local governments to requiring only one garage per single-family home. Other legislation would address the fees localities can charge new developments, capping them in some instances and requiring more information to be reported on how fee money is spent.

Language in other bills in Minnesota's housing package would also forbid local governments from conditioning the approval of new housing on the use of "specific materials, design, amenities, or other aesthetic conditions" not already required by state law.

Local governments' use of planned unit developments—discretionary approval processes that can allow developers to bypass local zoning laws in exchange for them agreeing to pay additional fees or abide by specific design requirements—would also be restricted.

Budget-conscious localities have an incentive to attract residents who pay a lot of taxes and consume few city services, Salim Furth, a housing policy expert at George Mason University's Mercatus Center, told Reason in December. Passing design requirements that only allow for high-end housing is one way to ensure you get high-income residents.

"There's a level of micromanaging, even in places that allow growth, they're more and more allowing it through a highly discretionary planned unit development process," said Furth. "[Local governments] have certain priorities that never include affordability, that never include the diversity of housing typology. Its always about pushing quality, and therefore price, up."

Minnesota's Housing Affordability Institute, a developer-backed nonprofit, noted in a recent report that local design requirements intended to improve the aesthetic of homes can be quite detailed and add thousands to the costs of a new home.

That report gave the example of Corcoran, Minnesota, whose city code "outlines the design requirements for all new homes in the city, including materials used on the façade of homes, percentage of varying materials for the home, architectural styles, the percentage of the garage on the front elevation and garage door designs, just to name a few."

The Housing Affordability Institute's report surveyed homebuilders who said regulations in certain Minnesota communities add as much as 30 percent to the final costs of a home.

The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) has found that government regulation pushes up the costs of single-family homes by 25 percent, and multi-family units by 30 percent.

"It is a question of affordability. Do we want people to have the American dream? Do we want a family to grow up in a home?" says Grace Keliher of the Builders Association of Minnesota.

With housing affordability becoming a nationwide concern, the last thing we need is local governments dictating how a new home should look or how big of a garage it needs.

NEXT: Salty Sanders Supporters Say They Won’t Settle For Biden

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. I wish one could say this represents a “libertarian moment” for Minnesota, but somehow I doubt it.

    1. Praise the Lord we left MN. MN is basically a communist state, except without the concentration camps (at least for now). Get while the getting is good, MN residents, as sooner or later you will be TOLD what to do by your masters. BTW, the idiocy of the new ban is just a matter of the govt. there trying to steal more of peoples’ money, and use it for their stupid, illogical, and criminal purposes. Josef Stalin would feel at home in Minnesota.

      1. I’m from MN too and my parents live there. Greater MN isn’t as bad as the Twin Cities, particularly Minneapolis.

    2. Yeah, hard to see how banning things relates to libertarian philosophy.

  2. One libertarian can see this as reduction of government regulation, another can see this as an attack on free association and property rights.

    If “there are no paradoxes”, then the above needs to be further considered.

    1. an attack on free association and property rights

      How are either of those things threatened by this?

      1. Because it strips the ability of neighborhoods to determine their own character. I’m a homeowner in a neighborhood zoned for single-family dwellings. I opted to live there because it limits the number of residents (thereby limiting traffic), you’re not going to have the instability that transitional residents (since many multi-family dwellings are rentals) bring, and it can create traffic and parking issues.

        I picked the neighborhood specifically because I didn’t want tons of traffic coming through and I like my privacy. Also because I have a fantastic mountain view that isn’t threatened by single-family zoning, but could be threatened by multi-family dwellings. They park an apartment complex in my area that obstructs my view, that’s $100K off my home value right there and it ruins one of the best parts about where I live.

        I pay a ton of money in taxes, and if I and my neighbors want to be able to keep the area zoned single-family, we should be able to do so, since we have a signed covenant restricting land use as a condition for buying in the neighborhood. Laws like this override our contract and property rights.

        1. WRONG.

          That can be ensured… By living in a place with covenants and/or a housing association. You bought land with no such restrictions in the HOPES that it would remain the way it is now.

          If you want a guarantee, move into a place that actually has such a legal guarantee.

  3. Sweet. Supporters of this nonsense should use the hashtag #FavelasForMinnesota

  4. laws because aesthetics is so fucking stupid. i like a purple door.

    1. Yeah – I’ve always found it weird that you can claim an ownership stake in literally everything you can see from your property.

      1. you’ll ruin my re-sale value w/that purple door!

      2. It’s far more complicated than that. It’s generally about land use issues in a neighborhood and the effect that land use has on the value of your property. The neighbor painting the door a weird color probably won’t affect me at all or give me standing to sue in court (and I wouldn’t care to do that) unless they signed a covenant or a homeowner’s agreement prohibiting such behavior. Even then it would probably be silly or petty to fight over that.

        A neighbor deciding to put up obtrusive construction that impeded access to my property or increased traffic flow or population, building an addition that obstructed my view, or who parked a bunch of derelict cars on their property, however, can very much affect me and my financial investment, and it’s fully appropriate for me to litigate to protect my property rights and interest.

        1. Again, before the government STOLE everybodies property rights, this stuff was covered with private contracts between landowners, if they felt they REALLY needed to ensure such things for the future.

          The government has no right to restrict property usage, only contracts between people should be able to do that.

  5. Never include affordability? Did someone have a stroke? They always include affordability. They always require developers to make X% of their building “affordable”. The regulate in “affordability” with rent controls and all manner of regulations.

    The problem is that their policies actually accomplish the opposite, by restricting supply and therefore driving up costs across the board.

    You want “affordability”? Just quit artificially suppressing the supply.


  7. That includes a bill that would limit local governments to requiring only one garage per single-family home.

    How many garages should a home have? I understand that “associate editor” is just an honorific, but come on.

  8. Can’t figure those Vikings . . . look at what they’ve made of their native land. Now they want to mess up their new home?

    1. Yeah, just look at it, peaceful low crime, free healthcare, free college, longer lives, no property taxes

      for many people of normal income the tax burden is similar to the US

      yeah look what they have done

      1. And Americans have higher incomes, bigger houses, better healthcare for most people, and comparably low crime rates… If you’re not in a black or Hispanic neighborhood.

        Next batch of incorrect facts please!

  9. Even libertarian boomers will bend over backwards and contort logic to justify maintaining their inflated home values. Development and housing density for thee, not for me.

    1. If it’s not your money or your property involved, where do you get off telling others that they’re not allowed to protect their investments? Especially if there’s a signed covenant or homeowners’ agreement that the neighbors are violating with their actions.

      1. Homeowners associations are NOT effected by government zoning!!!

        That’s the WHOLE POINT. Government zoning can change whenever the government changes it, private contracts cannot. Depending on the association, some super majority of homeowners may be able to amend the rules, but the government can’t.

  10. I am making 7 to 6 dollar par hour at home on laptop ,, This is make happy But now i am Working 4 hour Dailly and make 40 dollar Easily .. This is enough for me to happy my family..how ?? i am making this so u can do it Easily…. Read more  

  11. Are they limiting HA? Wherever zoning lags, HOA are right there

    all those stories about banned flags etc, HOA, not zoning

    Funny watching these libertarians in name only gasping at a removal of regulation

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.