Met Council study shows region needs more housing

The message from a recent Metropolitan Council study is that the metro region needs more housing. 

The findings were presented to the council’s Community Development Committee during a June 4 meeting. The study looked at 2017 building permits from the metro area, which the council considers to be the seven counties of Anoka, Hennepin, Washington, Ramsey, Dakota, Scott and Carver.

The main finding was that vacancy rates and housing stock are not keeping up with metro-area population growth, meaning housing prices could rise, making housing less affordable. The study also showed that the Twin Cities is following a national trend of a lack of housing in metropolitan areas. 


What the numbers show

Since 1970, the Met Council has collected building permit data to track housing stock and compare it to national data. 

For the 2017 survey, the council had a 96 percent response rate working with local municipalities across the seven metro counties. 

Overall, the 2017 report found that residential development was up 11 percent from 2016, meaning the region gained 15,226 new units. 

However, to keep up with population growth, the report showed that the seven-county region needs to add 13,400 additional units to maintain a 5 percent vacancy rate.

The report also showed that multifamily housing — buildings with five or more units — was the predominant housing type for the region, making up about 60 percent of the total units added in 2017. 

Minneapolis was the 2017 leader for development with 2,284 added units. St. Paul added 546 units to the city’s housing stock in 2017.

The study also compared the Twin Cities metro area to national trends. These trends include the supply of housing, the type of housing, and whether development is happening mostly in the suburbs or in urban areas. In terms of supply, the national trend currently shows a housing shortage, which may push up housing costs, a trend that the study shows rings true for the Twin Cities. 

The second national trend is that multifamily construction has peaked. On this trend, the Twin Cities differ — the Metropolitan Council’s study shows that metro area multifamily housing construction continues to rise. 

The third national trend the council compared the Twin Cities to was growth and market activity mostly taking place in suburban areas. The 2017 study showed a mix of development both in urban and suburban areas in the Twin Cities metro.

The council’s report also found that throughout the region, there hasn’t been much construction of what it called “relatively affordable” options. The study found a drop in the building of options like townhomes, duplexes, triplexes and quadplexes, and of accessory dwelling units, or “mother-in-law apartments.”


Not unfamiliar to St. Paul

A lack of relatively affordable housing options being built isn’t unfamiliar to St. Paul and Ramsey County communities. In St. Paul, the city has been trying to find ways to increase density and diversify housing stock, and make housing more affordable. 

For example, the city has been studying the expansion of the use of accessory dwelling units, which are already in use in a small area near the Metro Green Line along University Avenue. 

These type of dwelling units allow a resident to make a part of their home into an apartment, adding to housing density. 

Another attempt at diversification has been tiny homes. While the East Yard, a proposed tiny home development in Railroad Island on the East Side, has had to abandon original plans to develop a small sliver of land along Bush Avenue, the project’s developer, Loren Schirber, is still trying to build the tiny home development elsewhere in the city. 

Other organizations, like the East Side Neighborhood Development Company, have conducted tiny home studies to find ways to adjust city code for new and unique types of housing.

The city has also been working on housing policies through its Fair Housing Work Group, which was called to action by former mayor Chris Coleman and City Council President Amy Brendmoen at the end of 2017. The work group is creating recommendations for policies to make sure there is affordable and safe housing for all residents in St. Paul, regardless of race, religion or class.


– Marjorie Otto can be reached at 651-748-7816 or at Follow her on Twitter at @EastSideM_Otto

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