The Many Colours of Nimby: Jack And The Four-plex Stalk. Or, Towers That Block The Sun

photo of fourplexes tucked into a neighbourhood in Minneapolis.
Whittier Bike photo by Tony Webster is licensed under CC BY 2.0
Fourplexes tucked into a neighbourhood in Minneapolis.

NIMBY: Not in My Back Yard. Part of an ongoing collection of articles exploring some of the many ways that a worldwide affordable housing crisis is opposed.

With space for new housing at a premium in many cities, one of the most talked about ways of inserting necessary affordable housing into a city involves relaxing restrictive zoning to allow an increase in housing density. Minneapolis, Minnesota is no exception to these discussions.

Inevitably, the urgency of the housing crisis in many countries has municipalities eyeing the most wasteful of all community residential neighbourhoods — those zoned exclusively for single family dwelling.

One of the least obtrusive ways of increasing density in these neighborhoods is allowing additional dwelling units (ADU’s) inside existing housing. Slightly more obtrusive are small backyard residences on the same property as the principal residence. Needless to say, zoning changes to allow one or both these options to increase neighbourhood density receive their share of NIMBY complaints. ‘Too Many People’, Parking’ and ‘Traffic Issues’ are common complaints to committees studying zoning adjustments.

Zoning changes are also being considered in many municipalities which allow the possibility of new multiple-unit dwellings to be built on the lot of a single home. These changes to the density of single family housing neighbourhoods are being strongly challenged everywhere, not just on the somewhat lame ‘Too Many People’ and ‘Parking/Traffic Problems’ grounds.

A new NIMBY challenge? Higher density units will stand out like sore thumbs — towers which are entirely out of neighbourhood character that will block sunlight from neighbourhood gardens.

The reality, at least at the lower end of the density scale? Those living in mixed density neighbourhoods that allow low rise multiple dwelling units are quite familiar with the truth of this matter. Duplexes, four-plexes and even six-plexes can be less obtrusive than the original single family houses. And in neighbourhoods where zoning has been relaxed to allow ‘monster homes,’ a four-plex may be considerably less intrusive and arguably less offensive than a gigantic slab-and-glass box jammed between more traditional houses.

For one city’s struggles to educate NIMBYites fixated on multiple-dwelling unit horror stories, read more in the Star Tribune:  Bring on the bulldozers? Minneapolis officials say that’s not in the comp plan


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.