Saint Paul's Zoning Code uses a definition of the term "family" to regulate the number of unrelated occupants allowed in one residential dwelling unit. The current definition was targeted for study by the 2040 Comprehensive Plan and City Council Resolution 18-1204.

On Friday, December 8, 2020, the Planning Commission made recommendations to the City Council.

City Council will review the Planning Commission's recommendation, hold a public hearing, and vote to adopt on dates yet to be determined. 

See the "City Council Public Hearing" section below for instructions on viewing or submitting comment for the public hearing.

Definition of Family Study (Jan 8, 2021)  Planning Commission Recommendation (Jan 8, 2021)


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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."
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Planning staff 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.

On Friday, December 8, 2020, the Saint Paul Planning Commission recommended Option 1 ("Any six") with 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.

This new definition:

  • 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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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 Comprehensie 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

TBD (City Council meets Wednesdays at 3:30 pm) City Council Four readings, public hearing, and vote
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City Council Public Hearing

The Saint Paul City Council will hold a public hearing on text amendments to Saint Paul’s Zoning Code regarding the Zoning Code definition of Family on Wednesday, March 3, 2021 at 3:30 p.m. 

In-person meetings, or meetings conducted under Minn. Stat. § 13D.02 of the City Council, are not practical or prudent because of the COVID-19 health pandemic emergency declared under Minn. Stat. Chapter 12 by the Minnesota Governor Tim Walz and Saint Paul Mayor Melvin Carter. In light of the COVID-19 health pandemic, members of the City Council will participate in City Council meetings by telephone or other electronic means.

View City Council Meetings Online

Public attendance at the City Council’s regular meeting location is not feasible due to the COVID-19 health pandemic. Members of the public may view City Council meetings online at or on local cable Channel 18.

Submit Comments for Public Hearing Electronically

The public may comment on public hearing items in writing or via voicemail. Any comments and materials submitted by 12:00 pm of the day before the meeting will be attached to the public record and available for review by the City Council.

Comments may be submitted as follows: Written public comment on public hearing items can be submitted to or by voicemail at 651-266-6805.

While the Council will make best efforts to decide all issues before them, the Council may delay decisions on certain matters where the members believe meeting in-person is necessary. All City Council public hearings will be held at 3:30 p.m. and there will be no separate 5:30 p.m. public hearings. More information is available at

Last Edited: February 2, 2021