October 18, 2023
City of Saint Paul Updates Zoning Code to Support Greater Housing Density
The Saint Paul City Council voted to allow multi-family housing units to be built on lots previously limited to single-family homes
SAINT PAUL, MN - Today, the Saint Paul City Council approved landmark changes in the zoning code to expand housing opportunities in the city. The comprehensive updates to the zoning code approved by the City Council provide for greater housing density, accessibility, and affordability incentives while nurturing a diverse and sustainable community.
"This is an exciting development and a big step toward achieving the goals outlined in our 2040 Comprehensive Plan,” said Mayor Carter. “With these changes, we are investing in the housing supply and expanding affordable housing and wealth-building opportunities for all of our residents.”
These groundbreaking zoning changes are the result of extensive research by the City of Saint Paul’s Planning and Economic Development department through its 1-4 Unit Housing Study. Throughout the significant engagement process, the community’s desire for a greater variety of housing types was a predominant theme. The new zoning amendments will now allow neighborhood-scale housing, such as duplexes, triplexes, fourplexes, accessory dwelling units (ADUs), townhomes, and cluster developments, to be built in every part of the city.
"The revised zoning regulations reflect the collective vision of a more inclusive and equitable Saint Paul,” said Nicolle Goodman, Director of Saint Paul Planning and Economic Development. “We are excited to work alongside community in implementing these changes."
“I appreciate the very thoughtful work that went into this proposal,” said Council President Amy Brendmoen. “I believe the changes we passed today will create more opportunities and options for density and housing choices in our City.”
Allowing more neighborhood scale housing is an important part of Saint Paul’s comprehensive housing strategy. These zoning changes will increase Saint Paul’s overall housing supply and bring more rental and ownership opportunities for current and future residents.
ABOUT THE ZONING CHANGES
- Create new residential zoning districts H1 and H2: to replace the existing, single-family-only R1, R2, R3, R4 districts, other low-density RT1-RT2 districts, and some lower-density Planned Development (PD) districts. The standards for these districts and the semirural single-family only RL district are also revised. Both districts allow for a variety of neighborhood-scale housing options including but not limited to duplexes, triplexes, fourplexes, accessory dwelling units (ADUs), townhomes.
- Update regulations for accessory dwelling units: to increase the allowable size and number allowed per lot (up to two ADUs per single family home).
- Add density bonus options: for ownership housing affordable to households earning 80% of area median income (AMI) or rental housing at 60% AMI; or for retaining an existing home; or for family-sized (three or more bedroom) units.
- Incentivize keeping existing homes: with the above density bonus options as well as greater flexibility to add two attached ADUs if the single-family home is existing.
- Update the cluster development ordinance: for greater flexibility in 1-4 unit housing development and lot layouts in exchange for an open space requirement.
- Create more and updated design standards: including some that are tweaked from the popular traditional neighborhood (T) zoning district design standards.
- Create new options for lot splits: including revisions to flag-shaped lots and the introduction of “back lots” and “reverse-flag lots” for more housing options.
ABOUT THE 1 TO 4 UNIT HOUSING STUDY
Saint Paul’s Zoning Code controls how much housing can be built in certain parts of the city. These requirements make it difficult to build enough new housing to fix Saint Paul’s current housing shortage.
City Council Resolution 18-1204 and the 2040 Comprehensive Plan call for studying ways to allow more neighborhood-scale housing in all areas of Saint Paul. To accomplish this goal, the City of Saint Paul initiated the 1-4 Unit Housing Study.
The 1-4 Unit Housing Study had two phases:
- Phase 1 of the study focused on small housing, accessory dwelling units, and small parcels. These amendments to the zoning code were adopted by the City Council on January 19, 2022, in City Council Ordinance 22-1 and went into effect March 5, 2022.
- Phase 2, the broader and more in-depth part of the work, focused on evaluating additional zoning flexibility to support greater housing diversity. Following technical analysis and community engagement, staff drafting of a proposal, a public hearing at Planning Commission, review of public comments, and a recommendation by the Planning Commission on August 18, 2023, the City Council also held a public hearing on October 4, and has now voted to adopt the zoning amendments.