Accessory Dwelling Units in Minneapolis

I’ve thought a lot recently about accessory dwelling units in Minneapolis. Not only do ADUs offer potential additional streams of income for homeowners, but they also work to eliminate housing shortages, rent hikes, and environmental impacts.

(Photo Credit: American Tiny House Association)

So why aren’t there more throughout the city? Well, unfortunately there are current zoning restrictions in place that limit where and how many you can build on a piece of land in Minneapolis. This means that only certain areas of the city are zoned to allow for ADUs, while other areas are strictly zoned for one single family homes for non owner occupants. But I am a huge advocate for changing the laws to allow more ADUs because I believe it can only serve to make our city greater.


Consider for a minute your own home. What if you could remodel your garage into an upper level studio apartment and collect a monthly rent check? What if you were able to build a tiny house in your backyard and rent it out on AirBnB for additional side income? Or what if you were able to buy a vacant lot and invest in and build two smaller rental homes (think 350-400 square feet each) instead of a larger single family home? There are so many possibilities to increase your earning potential.


Of course, increased density also helps to eliminate the housing and rent issues we have in Minneapolis right now. More units for rent drives the supply up, which then serves to lower rent prices. When competition amongst renters goes down, rent stabilizes and people can once again afford their monthly payments. We could increase housing for so many more families simply by making our zoning laws more open to building density. The more units you have in an area, the more people can find homes. It’s simple.


Now, it’s important to also discuss the environmental impacts of small homes and ADUs. Think about Minneapolis area homes for a minute. Have you seen a trend of smaller ramblers getting torn down to make way for “McMansions?” Have you noticed that today, people seem to be opting for more space, more square footage, and more openness in floor plans? All of that is beautiful, sure, but is it always necessary? 


The fact is that a big part of global warming is our individual consumption – bigger houses need more heating/electricity, and therefore use far more energy than a smaller home that is just as nice. If we all just consume less of everything collectively, then we won’t need as much oil or coal and we can work together to lessen our impact on the environment. Too often, people only think of global warming on a massive scale, a problem many think is outside of their control. But at the same time, they forget to look at their own habits – is a 2,500 square foot house really necessary for a couple or small family? Sure, it’s nice to have space, but if we want more space, we also need to face the fact that that choice impacts the environment. 


Small homes encourage less consumption, less energy use, and smarter storage solutions (it’s a lot easier to live minimally when you don’t have extra rooms to just “store” things you don’t need).  When you opt to live in a smaller home, and build an ADU for either extra income or for family to stay in, you help to contribute to our city in a positive way by keeping energy consumption down and building up the rental market. 


Right now, the zoning laws are clear. But I’d like to propose a change, because allowing ADUs throughout the city is ultimately a very positive thing and impacts our community in unlimited ways.  Sometimes it seems that issues within a city are impossible to solve, but if we make even a small change to allow innovation to thrive, I think we’ll all be pleasantly surprised with the results. 


What are your thoughts on ADUs?