brainerd, minnesota voted yes

This year, Brainerd City Council members began addressing their vacant city lot problem. With 465 properties legally blocked from development, members proposed lower minimum house sizes — and finally voted yes!

This 1920s Brainerd home contains four bedrooms and two baths. It just sold for $84,000, a decades-ago price in any large U.S. metro area. (Realtor.com)

This 1920s Brainerd home contains four bedrooms and two baths. It just sold for $84,000, a decades-ago price in any large U.S. metro area. (Realtor.com)

Brainerd took its first downsizing step, lowering minimum house sizes from 750 to 500 square feet on all empty lots. While a 400 sq. ft. minimum was first proposed, it changed due to existing home value concerns.

Why is Brainerd, MN unusual? It’s a small city of 13,590 citizens, and a vacation place with modest home prices. Typically large metros, with high real estate prices, have been first-movers in lowering minimum sizes of homes.

The Star-Tribune reports that Minneapolis set a good precedent, with 500 sq. ft. minimums for standalone houses and 350 sq. ft. minimums for secondary, efficiency apartments.

P.S. Are Brainerd residents thinking about buying property yet? A quick search uncovers Minnesota companies which design and build small, beautiful places. We like these weeHouses and cabins.

voting for lower house sizes

When you think of trend-changing places, does the middle of Minnesota come to mind? The Brainerd City Council, representing its 13,590 citizens, will vote on June 2nd about lowering their minimum house sizes from 750 to 400 sq. ft.

Planning Commission member Sarah Hayden says there are 465 vacant lots which “can’t be built on while meeting current city codes, or would leave a small yard.”  Adjusting minimum builds could help solve this problem.

Brainerd, MN began when Northern Pacific Railroad selected its location fora Mississippi River crossing. By 1871, the undeveloped land had been platted. (City of Brainerd)

Brainerd, MN began when Northern Pacific Railroad Company selected its location for a Mississippi River Crossing. By 1871, the undeveloped land had been platted. (City of Brainerd)

Changing the code for primary dwelling units is no slam dunk. City Council member Gary Scheeler declared, “I would like to see this tried somewhere else and see what it does to the community.” Several officials voiced concerns about the impact of smaller homes on other property values.

Will home values in Brainerd decline if new smaller houses are built? This 1940 built home is one of the larger listings for sale, at $124,900. (Realtor.com)

Will home values in Brainerd decline if smaller houses can be built? This 1940 built home is one of the larger listings for sale, at $124,900. (Realtor.com)

The Brainerd Dispatch posted an online poll asking if the city should approve houses as small as 400 sq. ft., to be built. With 1,170 votes cast, 55 percent said yes, 39 percent said no, and five percent were undecided.

It’s something that municipal leaders with unoccupied lots should consider, so we’ll give kudos to these Minnesotans. Stay tuned for the City Council vote next month, to see if they ended up permitting 400+ sq. ft houses.