K-12 Housing climate: Minneapolis vs Shorewood Hills

Henry Grabar:

“Large swaths of our city are exclusively zoned for single-family homes, so unless you have the ability to build a very large home on a very large lot, you can’t live in the neighborhood,” Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey told me this week. Single-family home zoning was devised as a legal way to keep black Americans and other minorities from moving into certain neighborhoods, and it still functions as an effective barrier today. Abolishing restrictive zoning, the mayor said, was part of a general consensus that the city ought to begin to mend the damage wrought in pursuit of segregation. Human diversity—which nearly everyone in this staunchly liberal city would say is a good thing—only goes as far as the housing stock.

It may be as long as a year before Minneapolis zoning regulations and building codes reflect what’s outlined in the 481-page plan, which was crafted by city planners. Still, its passage makes the 422,000-person city, part of the Twin Cities region, one of the rare U.S. metropolises to publicly confront the racist roots of single-family zoning—and try to address the issue.

“A lot of research has been done on the history that’s led us to this point,” said Cam Gordon, a city councilman who represents the Second Ward, which includes the University of Minnesota’s flagship campus. “That history helped people realize that the way the city is set up right now is based on this government-endorsed and sanctioned racist system.” Easing the plan’s path to approval, he said, was the fact that modest single-family homes in appreciating neighborhoods were already making way for McMansions. Why not allow someone to build three units in the same-size building? (Requirements on height, yard space, and permeable surface remain unchanged in those areas.)

Shorewood Hills rejects low income apartments (2010).

Shorewood Hills is part of the Madison School District.

We have long tolerated disastrous reading results, despite spending far more than most taxpayer supported K-12 School Districts.

Finally, Madison recently expanded its least diverse schools, one of which supports Shorewood Hills (Hamilton Middle School). 18.8% of Hamilton’s student population are classified as low income, according to the Madison School District – far below the organization’s average.