Zoning changes that are intended to reduce the housing shortage in Saint Paul and make it easier to construct accessory dwellings and small houses on narrow lots were approved on January 19 by the City Council. The unanimous vote opens the second phase of a zoning study that is focused on promoting the building of one- to four-unit dwellings across the city. Public meetings on the changes proposed in the second phase will be held virtually in February and March.

With the changes approved on January 19, property owners will find it easier to add accessory dwelling units (ADUs) above a garage, elsewhere on a lot or attached to an existing home. Property owners no longer have to live in one of the units on the lot, and restrictions on the size of the ADUs have also been eased.

The second phase of the zoning study is more ambitious than the first phase. It could further ease restrictions on the size and types of new housing, make it easier to convert large homes for multi-family uses and allow duplexes, triplexes and four-plexes in areas where they are now forbidden.

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Registered student dwellings near the University of Saint Thomas campus in Merriam Park and Macalester-Groveland may now house up to six residents rather than just four. The approved changes also open the door to smaller houses and to a cluster of smaller houses on a single-family lot. New houses may now be narrower than the previous minimum of 22 feet. The minimum setbacks from property lines and the minimum distance between adjacent buildings have also been reduced.

The second phase of the zoning study is more ambitious than the first phase. It could further ease restrictions on the size and types of new housing, make it easier to convert large homes for multi-family uses and allow duplexes, triplexes and four-plexes in areas where they are now forbidden.

The virtual meetings on the second phase are open to anyone, although they will be focused on different parts of the city. The Macalester-Groveland and Highland district councils will host the first meeting from 6:30-8 p.m. Tuesday, February 1. Other meetings are scheduled from 6:30-8 p.m. Thursday, February 10, for the Hamline-Midway, Como and North End neighborhoods, and from 6:30-8 p.m. Wednesday, March 2, for the Dayton’s Bluff neighborhood. To register for the meeting links, visit engagestpaul.org/1to4housingstudy.

— Jane McClure

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