A row of brick housing in Minneapolis.

Land Matters Podcast

Episode 5: How One Midwestern City Is Trying to Stay Affordable
By Anthony Flint, September 30, 2019


A city in the generally take-it-slow Midwest may seem like an unlikely place for the start of a revolution. But Minneapolis has passed some of the most progressive housing policies and zoning reforms in the country, and other cities—including those on the coasts struggling to overcome an affordability crisis—are taking notice.


Minneapolis first attracted attention by banning single-family-only zoning in an effort to usher in more multi-family housing in all neighborhoods. The city also legalized accessory dwelling units, eliminated minimum parking requirements, and dramatically up-zoned for more height and density along transit corridors and around employment centers.

Perhaps most important, Minneapolis tied all up-zoning with increased affordability requirements for new development—based on the idea that changing zoning to allow more housing creates measurable value for private landowners and developers.

It was a singular moment when a political coalition came together to focus on equity, says Minneapolis City Council President Lisa Bender, one of the leaders of the effort and a rising star in local politics. She made time for the Land Matters podcast recently on a trip to Vancouver, Canada, where she was a speaker at Rail-Volution, an annual summit promoting transit and transit-oriented development.

Vancouver—full of residential high-rises and well served by transit, but known as the most expensive city in North America—was a fitting place for the 41-year-old Bender, who has a master’s degree in city and regional planning from the University of California Berkeley and served for a time in San Francisco’s planning department, to reflect on her experiences. Nobody wants a city, she says, that can only be enjoyed by the wealthy.

You can listen to the interview and subscribe to Land Matters on Apple Podcasts, Google Play, Spotify, Stitcher, or wherever you listen to podcasts.

Learn More

Backyard Brouhaha
Inclusionary Housing: Creating and Maintaining Equitable Communities
Land Value Capture: Tools to Finance Our Urban Future

Photograph Credit: Kubrak78/GettyImages