City Council approves framework for single room occupancy housing, providing another affordable housing option in Minneapolis

July 23, 2021

The City Council approved changes to its Housing Maintenance Code and Zoning Code today allowing for single room occupancy (SRO) units – a measure intended to address a gap in affordable housing options for low-wage workers in Minneapolis.

The ordinance changes create a new regulatory framework for single room occupancy units that may share a kitchen or bathroom. It allows for up to two occupants per room. These changes support goals outlined in the City’s Comprehensive Plan, Minneapolis 2040, including pursuing innovative housing types and eliminating homelessness through safe, stable and affordable housing amendments.

Single room occupancy units can only be established by nonprofit or government agencies with a track record of successfully managing housing. The City will be creating licensing procedures and expectations over the next few months and staff anticipate being ready to take applications on Nov. 1. People interested in more information about converting an existing structure or building new should contact 311.

“Today’s reintroduction of safe, dignified, and accessible single room occupancy units will help create a diverse range of housing solutions to meet the diverse range of housing needs across our city,” said Mayor Jacob Frey. “With $5 million from our federal relief proposal for SRO acquisition and development approved earlier this month, we will be ready to take immediate advantage of this policy change and provide critical housing resources to our neighbors who need it most.”

“After personally helping move dozens of people from their homes over many years as SRO buildings were sold and tenants lost their housing, this policy change will make it clear that SRO housing is an important part of the affordable housing continuum,” said City Council Member Lisa Goodman. “Working with residents as they are forced to move has been an emotional and frustrating process and one I hope to not see happen again as we legitimize and allow smaller units with shared baths and kitchens as a safe, affordable and now allowed housing option in our city.”

“SROs and rooming houses could fill a major gap for people who need affordable homes in our city,” said Council Member Cam Gordon. “The City made a mistake in the past when these critical housing types were made illegal – and today, we have corrected that mistake. I am optimistic that we will see affordable housing providers use this ordinance to create new dignified, healthy units that will provide more residents more affordable housing options, prevent some from becoming homeless, and offer others a viable pathway out of homelessness.”

“Single room occupancy units will fill a critical gap in our housing market, providing for deep affordability that will especially but not exclusively support people transitioning out of homelessness or at risk of becoming homeless,” said Council Member Jeremy Schroeder. “As we continue to grapple with a housing crisis, it is critical that we use every tool available to us – and, where possible, create new ones – to ensure everyone in Minneapolis has access to a safe, stable, affordable home.”