Council to consider occupancy limits

A proposed amendment to the city zoning code that would allow for more unrelated individuals to live in one house or apartment is slated to get a public hearing in November.

Late last year, the City Council voted to allow so-called “intentional communities” of unrelated adults to live together in a single-family home, as long as they meet certain requirements. The new proposed amendment, introduced in January by Ward 3 City Council Member Jacob Frey and referred to staff at a February meeting of the Zoning and Planning Committee, would broaden the definition of “family” in the city’s zoning code, potentially allowing for “a certain number of unrelated individuals to be considered a family,” according to a staff report.

Frey, who is running for mayor, listed increased maximum occupancy limits in a section of his campaign website dedicated to the issues of affordable housing and homelessness.

“More people should be allowed to live together than currently are allowed by city law,” it states. “Restrictive occupancy limits based on outdated conceptions of what a ‘family’ is supposed to look like often make life challenging for immigrant families, and I support changing these laws.”

The staff report on the proposed amendment notes “Minneapolis is fairly unique” among big cities by regulating occupancy in both the zoning code and housing maintenance code. Occupancy limits in the zoning code are based on the city’s definition of a family, while the housing maintenance code limits — designed to promote health and safety — are based on the square footage of the dwelling.

One result is that there are some residential structures in the city that could safely accommodate more people but aren’t allowed to because of the zoning code restrictions on the number of unrelated individuals living together, the report notes. Zoning code allows up to three unrelated individuals can live together in low-density residential districts; in high-density residential districts, as many as five unrelated individuals can share a dwelling. In no residential district can the number of family members plus unrelated individuals exceed five.

The ordinance was scheduled to receive a public hearing Nov. 13. It was also scheduled to go before the City Council Committee of the Whole just as this edition was going to press.