The Council’s overall housing policy priority is to:

Create housing options that give people in all life stages and of all economic means viable choices for safe, stable and affordable homes.

Housing choices allow households to find housing affordable to them in the communities where they want to live. A full range of housing types can help increase resiliency as local governments experience changing demographics and economic conditions. Housing elements are an opportunity to state a local government’s specific policy priorities around housing choice within their community.

The information found here will help you develop a Housing Element and related Implementation Plan that meets minimum requirements of the Metropolitan Land Planning Act and is consistent with the adopted 2040 Housing Policy Plan. Counties may have different requirements than cities depending on their location. If you are preparing a County Comprehensive plan this FAQ will provide more information.

Housing Plan

An assessment of the existing housing conditions in your community is the first step in determining existing housing needs. Communities may use alternative data to meet minimum requirements if the sources are reasonably credible.

 Minimum Requirements:
  • Complete an existing housing assessment, including:

    • A table of existing local conditions (found on your Community Page), including the following information:
      1. Total number of housing units.

      2. Number of housing units affordable to households with incomes at or below 30% Area Median Income (AMI), between 31 and 50% AMI, and between 51 and 80% AMI. What these income ranges mean and how they translate to affordable housing costs.

      3. Number of housing units that are owner occupied.

      4. Number of housing units that are rental.

      5. Number of single family homes.

      6. Number of multi-family homes.

      7. Number of publicly subsidized housing units by the following types: senior housing, housing for people with disabilities, and all other publicly subsidized units. Include expiration dates of affordability requirements when applicable.

      8. Number of existing households that are experiencing housing cost burden with incomes at or below 30% Area Median Income (AMI), between 31 -50% AMI, and 51 -80% AMI.

  • ​A map of owner-occupied housing units (found on your Community Page) identifying their assessed values. At a minimum, differentiate the values above and below $243,500. What is this number and how is it calculated?

  • A narrative analysis of existing housing needs. At a minimum address the components of the existing housing assessment within the local context of your community. Plans consistent with Council policy will clearly identify existing housing needs and priorities for the community.

 Get More Out of Your Plan: 
  • Your analysis of existing housing needs will be more effective if it addresses potential barriers to meeting those needs. Consider different types of barriers in your analysis, including but not limited to physical, financial, and political challenges. For deeper consideration of barriers to meeting housing needs, check out the 2014 Analysis of Impediments to Fair Housing Choice: Twin Cities Region and the 2017 Addendum to the 2014 Regional Analysis of Impedimentsor the Metropolitan Council’s Choice, Place and Opportunity report.

  • Many communities have more detailed information about their existing housing conditions than needed to meet minimum requirements. Communities are encouraged to include additional information for their existing housing needs analysis if available, including:

    • Historical data on housing needs (for context)

    • How a community’s needs align with the relevant Consolidated Plan

    • School District boundaries within the community

    • The geographic distribution of rental housing costs in the community
  • Prioritize creating green and healthy housing for all household sizes and incomes. Healthy housing is beneficial in many ways. (Minnesota Healthy Planning: How-To Guide, page 10)

  • Consider using a housing-cost burden that incorporates the cost of transportation to employment opportunities, goods and services (i.e., no more than 30-40% of monthly income spent on housing and transportation). (Minnesota Healthy Planning: How-To Guide, page 30)

 We Can Help!
  • You can find your existing housing assessment tables and maps on your Community Page.

  • We’ve provided a detailed explanation of data sources and methodologies used in the tables and maps provided.

Forecasted household growth and future housing needs go hand in hand. Land use plans are the primary guidance communities have to accommodate household growth. Accommodating new affordable housing can be particularly challenging. A significant share of the household growth expected between 2021 and 2030 will be at income levels in need of affordable housing.
For communities that have forecasted growth in sewer-serviced areas, projected affordable housing needs are allocated by the Council and must be addressed through density minimums. Some communities are not anticipating sewer-serviced growth and therefore do not have an allocation of affordable housing need, nor must they guide land at minimum densities to support the development of affordable housing. 

 Minimum Requirements: 
  • Discuss how the land use plan addresses the future housing need for your forecasted growth.

 For Those Communities With An Affordable Housing Need Allocation:
  • Acknowledge your community’s allocation of the region’s need for affordable housing at three levels of affordability: <30% AMI, 31-50% AMI, and 51-80% AMI. How is this calculated?

  • Guide residential land at densities sufficient to create opportunities for affordable housing using one of the following options:

    1. Option 1: Guide sufficient land at minimum residential densities of 8 units/acre to support your community’s total allocation of affordable housing need for 2021 – 2030. This option may be best for communities that find it difficult to support densities of 12 units/acre (per Option 2), or prefer simplicity over flexibility in their density minimums.

    2. Option 2: Guide sufficient land at minimum residential densities of:

      • 12 units/acre to address your community’s allocation of affordable housing need at <50% AMI. This combines your community’s allocation at <30% AMI and 31-50% AMI.

      • 6 units/acre to address your community’s allocation of affordable housing need at 51-80% AMI.

Option 2 may be best for communities that feel they can achieve affordable housing needs at 51-80% AMI with less than 8 units/acre. It also allows the affordable housing need to be addressed with less actual land, as is the case if communities choose to use even higher densities than are required. Furthermore, communities using Option 2 may guide land to meet their allocation of affordable housing need at 51-80% AMI using a minimum density range of 3-6 units/acre if they have demonstrated in the last 10 years the application of programs, ordinances, and/or local fiscal devices that led to the development of housing affordable at 51-80% AMI in their community. Examples include: density bonuses for affordable housing unit inclusion, local funding programs such as TIF, etc.

 Get More Out of Your Plan:
  • Often the minimum densities required are still not adequate to promote land availability for affordable housing. Exceeding the minimum densities, especially in strategic locations such as near transit or where scarce affordable housing is currently available, is encouraged.

  • Incorporate views of nature when possible. A view of nature has been shown to improve overall job satisfaction, reduce number of physical ailments, improve test scores, shorten post-operative hospital stays and decrease use of pain medication. (Minnesota Healthy Planning: How-To Guide, page 19)

  • Create ordinances that increase flexibility to promote lifecycle housing. Lifecycle housing can provide appropriately sized housing for all stages of life including young professionals, families, empty-nesters and elderly. (Minnesota Healthy Planning: How-To Guide, page 33)

  • Consider how the community is projected to grow to avoid overcrowding, which may be an issue in communities with expanding populations of families. Overcrowding is associated with health impacts, including physical issues, mental health issues and personal safety. (Minnesota Healthy Planning: How-To Guide, page 33)

  • Consider the needs of the growing elderly population. They may desire smaller housing units, housing without stairs and housing closer to services that increase accessibility. (Minnesota Healthy Planning: How-To Guide, page 33)

 We Can Help!
  • Your community’s allocation of the region’s need for affordable housing – and the methodology that went into the calculations -- was published as part of an appendix in the 2040 Housing Policy Plan. You can find your allocation on your Community Page.

Identifying current and future housing needs gives us the information we need to plan effective implementation strategies. Existing and future needs identified in the housing element must be addressed in the implementation plan. 

 Minimum Requirements: 
  • A description of public programs, fiscal devices, and other specific actions that could be used to meet the existing and projected housing needs identified in the housing element. Include in what circumstances and in what sequence they would be used.

  • Plans consistent with Council policy will clearly and directly link identified needs to available tools. Needs are identified within the three levels of affordability, and tools should therefore be addressed within the levels of affordability as well. See an example.

  • Plans consistent with Council policy will consider all widely accepted tools to address their housing needs. A list of widely accepted tools is provided, however, this list is not exhaustive. Communities are strongly encouraged to include any additional tools at their disposal when identifying how they will address their housing needs.

 Get More Out of Your Plan:
  • Your housing element is an opportunity to establish a strong set of policies and guidance that will support a more open and stable environment in which your housing goals can be met.  Consider going beyond the minimum requirements and creating a truly innovative, flexible housing strategy for your community.

  • The Urban Land Institute has put together a Housing Toolbox that could be useful as you work on this part of your plan.

  • ​A recent report that highlights ways to reduce the cost of affordable housing is now available. 

  • Explore the relationship between local tools and incentives and the development feasibility of mixed income housing with the Mixed Income Housing Calculator.

 We Can Help!
  • Many additional tools to address housing needs are described in our resource section, and Council housing staff are available to discuss strategies with you at any time.

Housing Resources

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