Accessory dwelling units would be a win-win for city

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July 1, 2014
By: Travis Churchward
Travis Churchward

In her article on rising rents in Uptown, Michelle Bruch identified a critical issue affecting a growing number of renters in Minneapolis.

Fortunately, in August the Minneapolis City Council will vote on a proposed policy change to help mitigate the impact of rising rents and ultimately strengthen each neighborhood throughout the city. The Minneapolis City Council can decide to allow accessory dwelling units (ADUs) throughout the city.

These units allow property owners to build smaller residential structures on their property. As the nature of families and homes within our city change, so must public policy. Young professionals postpone marriage longer, higher rates of divorce split established homes, and an aging population deserves proper rights through retirement.

Life situations vary greatly throughout the city and government must create a playing field to fairly accommodate everyone. Renting out an accessory dwelling unit can provide an extra source of income for retired empty nesters managing to pay increased property taxes. Downsizing from a single-family structure to an ADU can allow seniors to continue to live in the neighborhood with urban amenities. Recent college graduates and young professionals can more easily find affordable housing in the urban core. Middle class families can more confidently invest in home ownership knowing that the extra income from renting an ADU could stabilize family finances.

Adding complexity to the housing stock for owners and renters throughout the city will only make our city more durable in hard times while providing more potential during periods of growth.

As St. Paul considers allowing ADUs within a half-mile of the Green Line, many residents in St. Anthony Park oppose the necessary change in city zoning codes. St. Anthony Park is a tremendously family-oriented community, similar to many neighborhoods throughout Minneapolis, including my childhood home Fulton. As describe above, changing zoning codes will only strengthen the fabric of these quaint neighborhoods.

The change in zoning codes necessary will not inherently construct ADUs in your back yard; these changes will give you and your neighbors the freedom to accommodate personal life choices to maintain a stronger community presence for many years. This individual commitment to a particular place is the most necessary component to develop a vibrant neighborhood. I urge the City Council to allow accessory dwelling units to allow the housing market to better meet the individual demands of our citizens.

Travis Churchward