Sustainability Issues in Linden Hills
*The LHiNC Sustainability and Environment Committees have recently merged. The next meeting of the joint committee will be Thursday, August 22 at 6:30 pm at Linden Hills Park.
Planning for the Future: Housing Options in Linden Hills
During various community input sessions throughout the Small Area Plan process, residents have expressed an interest in expanding the diversity of housing options available to people who want to live in Linden Hills. The Minneapolis Comprehensive Plan for Sustainable Growth, which guides public and private growth and land development decisions, includes a policy to “preserve the stability and diversity of the city’s neighborhoods while allowing for increased density in order to attract and retain long-term residents and businesses.”
While most residents of Linden Hills currently live in single-family homes, interest is strong in expanding other housing types so that every age group can afford to live in the neighborhood. This goal is consistent with the City’s policy to “foster complete communities by preserving and increasing high quality housing opportunities suitable for all ages and household types.” This concept of ‘lifecycle housing’ is central to sustaining ‘multigenerational cities’ in which people of all ages can enjoy and contribute to the City’s vitality and livability. Beyond traditional apartment buildings and condominiums, other ideas include smaller multiplexes (such as 2-, 3- and 4-unit buildings), housing cooperatives, accessory units in converted garages, and small residences tucked into larger home lots.
Although the Small Area Plan will not address design or building guidelines for single-family homes, this issue is also important to Linden Hills residents. Many of the original houses in Linden Hills (Tudors and bungalows) are one and half stories with dormers, with garages located at the rear of the property. In recent years, developers have been tearing down older, more affordable houses and replacing them with large box-shaped homes that maximize interior floor space at the expense of exterior character. Many of these new houses are speculative (designed without a buyer in mind) that tend to be full two stories with garages in front and driveways taking up half of the front yard. A few years ago the City adopted a “McMansion” ordinance that limited the size of single-family houses based on the size of the property. No current regulation prohibits garages in front of the house. The ‘teardown’ approach and focus on building larger single-family homes does not appear to support or advance the wider community interest in more diverse and lifecycle housing that maintains the existing character and scale of the neighborhood.
Community members will have an opportunity to weigh in on the important and complex issue of housing diversity and options during the 45-day public comment period for the draft of the Small Area Plan. Please also consider joining LHiNC’s Sustainable Community/Environment Committee to help examine housing and other important aspects of the neighborhood that can promote and support growth through appropriate development, while preserving the unique character and strengths of Linden Hills.