Groups of unrelated adults in Minneapolis can now legally live together in a single-family home, so long as they meet certain requirements.
The City Council voted Friday to allow “intentional communities” — groups of people who share the management, resources and expenses of a single household. The city’s zoning code previously limited the number of unrelated people who could live together to three in some part of the city and five in others.
Council Member Cam Gordon, who authored the ordinance, first brought the issue before the council in 2008. He’s described it as an effort to provide affordable housing for students, seniors and other people whose desired living situation may not fit into a traditional family structure.
The ordinance got some pushback at Friday’s meeting from other council members, some who said it was too restrictive and others who said it wasn’t restrictive enough.
The council narrowly voted to remove some of the language defining “intentional community,” including whether household members use the dwelling as their legal address, have an adopted set of rules and share household expenses. Those requirements are beyond the scope of what city government can or should regulate, said Council Member Jacob Frey.
“Are we really going to be regulating whether Susan bought the milk on Monday and Otis abided by the chore wheel to sweep on Wednesday?” Frey said. “No. That’s crazy.”
Gordon and Council Member Lisa Goodman, who co-authored the ordinance, were among those who voted against removing the definitions that Frey found objectionable.
“Unfortunately, we need to think about the people who would try to take advantage of the regulation and open rooming houses or otherwise over-increase their occupancy to make money or for other reasons,” Goodman said.
Council President Barb Johnson, the only dissenting vote when the ordinance ultimately passed, said she’s all too familiar with housing violations and nuisance properties in her north Minneapolis ward.
“I just think that throwing caution to the wind and expecting people to behave may work in some neighborhoods but not others,” she said.
A lot of the ordinance language came out of community meetings and conversations with local advocates, including the Minneapolis Coalition for Intentional Communities.
Coalition member Tom Pierson, a former intentional community resident, said he was concerned about some of the language that was eliminated.
Still, he said, the ordinance offers a path to legalization for these households, many of which are currently operating underground. He pointed to the deadly warehouse fire at an Oakland artists’ collective as a reason to regulate intentional communities.
“The Oakland fire … is a wake-up call to a lot of people and a lot of city officials throughout the country that these things are happening,” he said. “If we make them illegal, they won’t make them more safe.”