U.S. Senator Tina Smith Announces Federal Investment to Foster Local Zoning Reform in Twin Cities

MINNEAPOLIS, MN – Today, U.S. Senator Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Chair of the Senate Housing Subcommittee, announced $4 million in funding to assist localities around the Twin Cities trying to update local ordinances to build more affordable housing. The award will provide technical support to cities and towns already in the process of updating their zoning codes to incentivize more housing construction. The announcement comes on the heels of a visit from the U.S. Secretary of the Treasury Janet Yellen, who was in Minneapolis for a roundtable discussion on housing and a tour of a federally-funded affordable housing apartment made possible thanks to Minneapolis’ updated zoning codes, federal funding through the American Rescue Plan and solar tax credits provided by the Inflation Reduction Act.

“Without a safe, decent, affordable place to live, nothing else in your life works. Our housing crisis can’t be solved by just one level of government. We need to increase our supply of all kinds of housing to boost the number of homes available and drive down costs, and that takes federal, state, local and private-sector coordination,” said Senator Smith. “Cities across the Metro have been working hard to reduce barriers to affordable housing and boost housing supply. This funding will support these efforts and further invest in the production and preservation of affordable housing in the region.”

“Access to stable, affordable, quality housing is key to expanding economic opportunities for families but right now the housing market is inaccessible for far too many,” said Senator Amy Klobuchar. “This funding will support cities and towns working to update their zoning codes to encourage the construction of more housing.”

“Neighbors for More Neighbors celebrates this newly-awarded grant to the Metropolitan Council. Minneapolis has seen the positive impact of legalizing more housing types in neighborhoods across the city. We are confident that similar reforms, encouraged by this grant and undertaken across the Twin Cities metro area, will help everyone find secure, affordable homes in the neighborhoods they choose,” said Anna Nelson, Board Chair at Neighbors for More Neighbors. 

Local zoning laws dictate where housing can be built and what kind of housing is permitted. Many zoning codes prohibit cheaper, multi-family housing projects such as apartment buildings, duplexes and triplexes, which makes it harder to boost housing supply by limiting the kinds of housing that can be built to just single-family homes. Cities with restrictive zoning laws tend to have higher home prices, rent growth, and levels of homelessness than cities with more flexible zoning policies.

Minneapolis received national attention for enacting comprehensive zoning reform in 2018, but it also eliminated parking minimums and allowed more transit-oriented development.  It also is far from the only locality working to update and reform their zoning laws.  Many cities and towns in the region are in the process of updating their zoning codes to support increased housing options, density and greater affordability.  The City of Roseville upzoned its municipal code to allow duplexes in zones that were previously designated exclusively for single-family units.  In Shoreview, the city council passed the first inclusionary zoning policy in Ramsey County. This funding will support other localities in the process of updating their local ordinances to better support new home construction.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development awarded this funding through their Pathways to Removing Obstacles to Housing (PRO Housing) program, which was funded through the 2023 Consolidated Appropriations Act, which Senator Smith supported in Congress. Senator Smith urged appropriators to fund PRO Housing in a letter to Congressional appropriators May, and chaired a hearing aimed at how to boost housing supply through innovative efforts such as zoning reform last year.