The Minneapolis City Council wants to build on already excessive housing regulations

On August 20, Minnpost reported,

The Minneapolis Planning Commission this week supported a proposed ordinance that would further regulate the types of materials developers of residential and commercial buildings put on the exterior of their buildings.

The ordinance is being sponsored by Council President Lisa Bender and the vice chair of the Housing and Zoning Committee, Jeremy Schroeder. It would codify in city law the types of materials that will be permitted and for what percentage of exterior walls they can be used, creating — as the plan calls it — a “hierarchy of exterior building materials.”

Favored under the proposal: traditional materials such as brick, stone, precast concrete, metal panels and glass walls. Considered class II materials, which can be used on a more-limited basis: fiber cement panels, lap siding and stucco. Class III materials — which could cover no more than 30 percent of a building under the proposal — include unfinished concrete, wood and wood composite lap siding. 

According to the article,

While the proposed regulations seem to be based on aesthetics — “to ensure a quality, lasting, affordable and beautiful urban built environment” — one of the sponsors said he is most concerned with durability: “For the folks on the Planning Commission, this is their passion. They want a beautiful city,” Schroeder said. “We as a city have never figured out how to regulate that. As much as aesthetics came up, it was more about the durability and about having housing that was going to stand the test of time.”

There is also an equity component, according to the staff report prepared by the city planning department, in that the current, informal process ends up benefiting wealthier residents who know how to work the system. “Without clear design expectations that are codified,” the staff report states, “development is often shaped by less formal and more subjective processes at the local neighborhood level. Wealthier, more organized, and white communities … have been more successful at pushing for higher-quality development and design products.”

As someone who is not familiar with building materials, it is hard to comment on whether this change will achieve quality or durability. But developers and architectures have expressed some opinions that seem to indicate that this ordinance will only burden developers.

For one, some of the materials, like fiber cement, which will be restricted under the new ordinance are actually durable and high-quality. And as one architect explained, most times issues with durability and quality have less to do with materials and more to do with the installation and the design of the application; therefore, the ordinance is very subjective.

So, if anything, the added burden of this ordinance will only delay development and increase the cost of developing real estate in Minneapolis.

Given what we already know about how excessive rules make housing expensive in the twin cities, this should not be surprising.