The Aug. 9 Star Tribune story, "Minnesota legislators aim to spur creation of more entry-level housing," was a classic example of using armchair statistics which suggest an association-correlation (city zoning and population demographics) to leap to a causation-correlation.
Not only was the article flawed from a statistical perspective, but it wrongly places blame on city zoning as the sole cause of segregation and obliteration of the American dream of home ownership.
For over 45 years I have been honored to serve in various leadership capacities in city governments. I know first-hand that planning for and delivering new homes to a community requires collaboration between cities and developers. To suggest that one party or the other is totally responsible for shortcomings in the housing challenge is inaccurate, distorts reality and inserts an added barrier to our shared objective.
To see how the current statutes and zoning are working, I opened the most recent Prior Lake City Council Agenda (Aug. 16). What did I find? Three proposed housing projects on the agenda. Each illustrates the reality of what is working as cities and developers’ partner together. Here they are:
"1. Approval of a final plat known as Towering Woods for 12-unit Habitat for Humanity high density residential subdivision."
The developer and city have been working together for quite some time to accomplish this project and the end is finally in sight!
"2. Approval of a final plat for Springview Meadows a 41-lot planned unit development (PUD."
One of the highest costs in housing is land. This PUD reduced lot sizes to pass economic benefit to the developer. As the savings on smaller lot sizes are passed on in reduced home sales prices, the buyers benefit as well!
"3. Approval of a six-month extension of final plat recording for a 99-unit senior cooperative community."
Laws and statutes provide for deadlines on development. They also provide flexibility for extensions. The reality is things happen beyond the control of developers and cities alike. In this case, an extension is to be granted so the project can move forward; not stop!
The three examples in Prior Lake are actual proof that current zoning, statutes, and ordinances give cities and developers considerable opportunity for partnering and walking the walk on housing matters together.
Could improvements be made? Certainly! That said, keeping land use and zoning under local control is essential to furthering housing options. Any legislative attempt to preempt this local control, to fix something that is not broken, will stymie city-developer partnering that is the secret ingredient to bringing forward new homes and facilitating the American Dream.