Update: On March 10th, 2021 the Saint Paul City Council voted unanimously to adopt new Zoning Code occupancy limits. (Ordinance 21-4) The new occupancy limits will take effect April 21st, 2021 under a new term in the Zoning Code: Household.

Since 1975, Saint Paul's Zoning Code has used the term Family to regulate the number of unrelated occupants allowed in one residential dwelling unit. Under that regulation, only four (4) unrelated people could occupy a dwelling unit, or two (2) parents with their children along with two (2) other people. The definition was targeted for study by the 2040 Comprehensive Plan and City Council Resolution 18-1204. The adopted text amendment replaces Family with the term Household and allows up to six (6) adults, related or unrelated, along with any number of minors in their care.

Definition of Family Study  Planning Commission Recommendation (January 8, 2021)  City Council Ordinance 21-4 (March 10, 2021)

 

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Background

The Zoning Code's current definition of Family was adopted in 1975. It reads:

Family. One (1) or two (2) persons or parents, with their direct lineal descendants and adopted or legally cared for children (and including the domestic employees thereof) together with not more than two (2) persons not so related, living together in the whole or part of a dwelling comprising a single housekeeping unit. Every additional group of four (4) or fewer persons living in such housekeeping unit shall be considered a separate family for the purpose of this code.

Other occupancy regulations are set by the City's Legislative Code (Chapter 34), Minnesota Fire Code, Minnesota Building Code, and Minnesota Residential Code.

This definition limits households that don’t closely conform to the “nuclear family” of two parents and their linearly-related children. In addition to "nuclear family" households, Saint Paul’s population includes:

  • people of cultural traditions and/or multigenerational households with members who may not be related by blood, marriage, or adoption, including vulnerable elders and children;
  • temporary workers, immigrants, post-graduate college students, and others in transitional phases of life that require unique housing options.

Additionally, the Twin Cities Fair Housing Implementation Council found the definition is at risk of being discriminatory or arbitrary and recommends Saint Paul:

  • "...have their definition of "family" more closely correlate to neutral maximum occupancy restrictions found in safety and building codes;"
  • "...increase the number of unrelated persons who may reside together to better allow for nontraditional family types;" or
  • "...create an administrative process that allows for a case-by-case approach to determining whether a group that does not meet the code's definition of family or housekeeping unit is nonetheless a functionally equivalent family."

Originally, planning staff had proposed three options for recommendation by the Planning Commission:

  • OPTION 1: “Any Six”

    • Six (6) or fewer adults, together with minor children in their care, living as a single housekeeping unit.
  • OPTION 2: “Family or five”
    • Five (5) or fewer adults, or any number of adults who are all related to each other by blood, marriage, guardianship, or domestic partnership as defined by Chapter 186 of the Saint Paul Legislative Code, together with minor children in their care, living as a single housekeeping unit.
  • OPTION 3: “Family plus four”
    • Any number of adults who are all related to each other by blood, marriage, guardianship, or domestic partnership as defined by Chapter 186 of the Saint Paul Legislative Code and up to four (4) additional adults, together with minor children in their care, living as a single housekeeping unit.

These three options were released for public comment by the Saint Paul Planning Commission. After numerous responses from residents and community organizations, on January 8th, the Planning Commission recommended the new definition of Household for adoption by the City Council.

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New: Definition of Household

On Wednesday, March 10, 2021, the Saint Paul City Council adopted the following changes:

Family. Household. Six (6) or fewer adults together with and minor children in their care, as a single housekeeping unit living together in a dwelling unit.

The full text amendment:

  • Removes any consideration of relatedness from the Zoning Code's occupancy regulation;
  • Allows up to six adults per dwelling unit anywhere in the city, regardless of relatedness or college student status;
  • Allows any number of occupants 17 years of age or younger, up to building or fire code limits; and
  • Clarifies the intent of the Code by replacing the term Family with Household.
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Timeline

Date Body Action
Wednesday, August 19, 2020 Comprehensive and Neighborhood Planning Committee

Review study and text amendment options

Wednesday, September 16, 2020 Comprehensive and Neighborhood Planning Committee

Review revised study and text amendment options and forward to Planning Commission for public comment

Friday, October 2, 2020 Planning Commission

Release draft study for public review and set public hearing date of November 13, 2020.

Friday, November 13, 2020 Planning Commission

Public hearing and refer matter back to Comprehensive and Neighborhood Planning Committee for review and recommendation.

Wednesday, December 16, 2020 Comprehensive and Neighborhood Planning Committee

Analyze public comment and make recommendation to Planning Commission

Friday, January 8, 2021 Planning Commission

Recommended resolution with amendments for adopted by the City Council and Mayor

Wednesday, March 3, 2021 City Council

Public hearing on the recommended amendments

Wednesday, March 10, 2021 City Council

Vote on adoption of recommended amendments

Last Edited: March 31, 2021