St. Paul City Council passes largest zoning change in decades, makes way for more multi-unit homes

The St. Paul City Council voted to pass the largest zoning change in the city in decades on Wednesday afternoon.

The council narrowly passed the ordinance that allows more multi-unit homes, with Council Members Chris Tolbert, Russel Balenger, and Jane Prince voting no.

The ordinance allows twin homes, duplexes, tri-units, four-units, and up to six-unit homes in residential neighborhoods that were previously zoned single-family neighborhoods only. There would be height and lot restrictions, with no large apartment complexes.

RELATED: St. Paul neighborhoods could see more multi-unit homes under zoning proposal

Council Member Rebecca Noecker previously told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS that the ordinance is a big shift for city neighborhoods, but the integrity of the single-family neighborhoods will be kept intact.

“I mean, it affects a huge part of St. Paul and it’s a big deal, again, in a good way,” Noecker said. “I think that’s the critical point, that gentle in-fill density, which is how we can really expand the capacity of our neighborhoods without building these huge multi-level apartment buildings.”

Before the vote, Council Member Nelsie Yang, of Ward 6, said, “I just wanted to take some time to thank all of our staff members and committee members who were a part of this process. It took many years for us to get here so I’m excited to support this final vote and also excited to see the potential with more housing development in our city. I just wanted to name that on the East Side, in Ward 6 where I represent, we don’t have robust transit routes or options for folks in our community but that’s why many people are excited about the Purple Line and about potential reallignment of that on White Bear Avenue, which is along a very important business corridor in our ward.”

However, Council Member Jane Prince expressed concerns about the ordinance, saying the maximum density range for buildings outlined in the ordinance proposal exceeds the maximum density range for urban neighborhoods in the 2040 plan. Prince added that the density range would only be exceeded if every single home and unit were filled.

Prince also noted that the ordinance could make way for outside investors to buy up single-family homes and rent them out at higher rates, therefore reducing affordable housing opportunities.

Meanwhile, Council Member Mitra Jalali, of Ward 4, said she would be voting for the ordinance as she believes it will give local developers and those in the community the opportunity to grow in a sustainable way. “And, selfishly, I would like to see more cats on porches,” Jalali added with a smile.

Watch the full stream of the city council meeting below.