Zoning changes could bring more density
The revamp of St. Paul’s multi-family residential zoning is seen as a way to add housing density, with a focus on affordable housing, throughout the city. The St. Paul City Council Sept. 9 adopted sweeping changes to residential multi-family or RM zoning on a 6-1 vote.
The vote doesn’t change the underlying zoning of the properties but it does change how properties can be redeveloped in the future. There is much more RM2, median-density multi-family housing zoning, than the less dense and higher-density options. According to a city staff report, there are 4,077 parcels zoned RM2, totaling 1,967 acres, compared with 1,182 RM1 parcels totaling 612 acres and 88 RM3 parcels totaling 148 acres. Many of the RM3 parcels contain apartment towers constructed in the 1960s and 1970s that are placed in park-like settings and owned by the St. Paul Public Housing Agency.
The changes have been touted as opening the door for new, smaller multi-family buildings, including triplexes and fourplexes. Generally developers will have more flexibility to build on small lots than before, as a minimum lot size of 9,000 square feet was eliminated. New buildings could also cover more of a lot. Parking requirements are eased. In return developers have to meet design standards for buildings, and place those buildings closer to the street.
But the ability to assemble several properties could bring larger new buildings.
Guaranteed income moves ahead
St. Paul’s guaranteed income pilot program is among the $19.9 million in coronavirus relief fund allocations approved September 23 by the City Council. The vote allocates most of the city’s $23.5 million in CARES Act funding.
The city will spend $12 million on response costs for staff, HVAC improvements in city facilities and personal protective equipment for first responders. Economic recovery totals $9.5 million, including $293,592 for the guaranteed income pilot. Other funds go to funds to help businesses and cultural organizations, and the city’s Bridge Fund. The bridge Fund provides relief for families and small businesses.
The council earlier in September debated Mayor Melvin Carter’s guaranteed income pilot program, which would provide a monthly stipend of $500 to families in four of the city’s poorest areas. Families would be chosen at random.
Another $1 million goes to various programs to support the homeless. There is also $950,000 for service delivery modifications during the pandemic. Water utility, parks and library workers are among those who’ve had to make changes in how they work due to the pandemic.