Preservation vs. Development, Part Two

In Preservation vs. Development, I discussed the criteria that I think should be applied when a city is trying to decide whether to preserve or develop a given neighborhood or area.

This post is about the criteria that should apply when an individual wants to develop a specific piece of property:  their own home.

A Primer on Variances

A friend of mine (and fellow Minneapolis homeowner) wants to spend what could very well be $100k correcting what is decidedly a handicap in today’s housing market:  a one-car, tuckunder garage in the front of her home.

When the home was built in the 1940’s, a one-car garage was plenty; the city was much more compact, and benefited from a superb public transportation system (a trolley system that ran from Stillwater to Excelsior).

Fast forward a couple generations.

Many Buyers today want at least a 2-car garage — three’s better.

They also like their garages out of sight, vs. in front where it detracts from the curb appeal.

Correcting Functional Obsolescence


My friend has architectural plans and blueprints to correct both of those problems — and the money to implement them.

So, why won’t her project happen?

Because restrictive Minneapolis development rules make such an improvement subject to a variance, and my friend has neither the time nor patience for the associated headaches (and the low odds of ultimately getting approva)l.

Multiply this experience by dozens or hundreds, and what happens over time is that, instead of the city’s housing stock being modernized and upgraded, it becomes increasingly obsolete and less valuable.

It’s hard to see how that, uh,  . . . development is in the city’s long-run best interests (financial and otherwise) — or those of its residents.

About the author

Ross Kaplan has 19+ years experience selling real estate all over the Twin Cities. He is also a 12-time consecutive "Super Real Estate Agent," as determined by Mpls. - St. Paul Magazine and Twin Cities Business Magazine. Prior to becoming a Realtor, Ross was an attorney (corporate law), CPA, and entrepreneur. He holds an economics degree from Stanford.

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