SPAAR & Sustainability

In Housing And Communities Through Environmental Stewardship

These are the issues and projects SPAAR continues to work on to promote sustainability.


While some may think it is counterintuitive, research shows that greater density leads to fewer emissions and greater sustainability. SPAAR has and will continue to promote housing density in our territory.

Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) Advocacy

Over the last few years SPAAR has worked to promote Accessory Dwelling Units, or ADUs. ADUs can benefit a community in a variety of ways. It can help residents make additional income from renting the structure. It can be a place to house aging parents or kids home from college. And they add to the number of available housing units on the market, improving affordability in a community In August of 2023, SPAAR conducted a poll of voters in Ramsey, Washington, and Anoka counties, and 66% of respondents had a favorable view of ADUs. SPAAR will continue reaching out to communities encouraging them to adopt ordinances that permit residents to build ADUs on their property.

Alternative Housing Showcase

During the fall of 2022, SPAAR collaborated with local builder YardHomes to host an Alternative Housing Showcase, to highlight Alternative Housing options like Tiny Homes, Container Homes, and Accessory Dwelling Units. Realtors®, elected officials, and other local stakeholders convened to tour a few of these structures, and learn about how they are built, and how they can be a benefit to communities around Minnesota.

Learn More about the showcase here: https://spaar.com/the-saint-paul-area-association-of-realtors-alternative-housing-showcase/

Learn more about YardHomes here: https://yardhomesmn.com/

Yes In My BackYard (YIMBY)

In 2023, a few of SPAAR’s Realtor® members came together to start a new Twin Cities chapter of YIMBY, or Yes In My BackYard. While focused primarily on the shortage of housing in the Twin Cities and beyond, Twin Cities YIMBY promotes inclusive housing policies that will help shrink the racial wealth gap, reduce displacement, reduce carbon emissions, and give more people access to jobs and high quality schools. SPAAR has and will continue to support YIMBY in its mission.

Website: https://twincitiesyimby.org/

Zoning Code Changes

In 2023, SPAAR engaged and supported the City of Saint Paul during its 1–4-unit housing study. On October 18, the Saint Paul City Council approved landmark changes in the zoning code to expand housing opportunities in the city. The comprehensive updates to the zoning code approved by the City Council provide for greater housing density, accessibility, and affordability incentives while nurturing a diverse and sustainable community.

For more information: https://www.stpaul.gov/departments/planning-and-economic-development/planning/current-activities/1-4-unit-housing-study

Community Development

Faribault Walkability Study

In 2023, SPAAR partnered with the City of Faribault on a downtown reassessment and community walkability study. The purpose of the project was to enhance the downtown area and improve the walkability and safety of the community. Through this project, Faribault will have the opportunity to join the neighborhoods and public space as one unit. Walkability and sustainability go hand-in-hand and finding the best path forward to ensuring safety is why the study was conducted.

Farmington Wayfinding Project

SPAAR and the City of Farmington partnered on a large-scale city wayfinding project. Farmington has a robust parks and trail system that is ripe for growth. The primary goal of this project is to make the community more walkable, accessible, and people friendly. The project encouraged sustainable results that excited community leaders and brought about positive change.

Key Communities Grant Program

In 2020, SPAAR developed the Key Communities Microgrant program. The purpose of the Key Communities program is to build strong ties between SPAAR Realtor® members and communities in SPAAR’s jurisdiction. Since the program’s inception, SPAAR has worked with nine communities to fund city-led projects to enhance the area. This Key Communities Grant Program provides cities in SPAAR’s territory the opportunity to access NAR grants, including grants to promote sustainability.

And More

Inflow, Infiltration, and Related Policies

Inflow and Infiltration (I/I) is clear water — stormwater and groundwater — that enters the wastewater system. It overloads the system and can cause costly sewer backups into homes and buildings. I/I can also cause sewer overflows into rivers and lakes. Up to 80% of I/I comes from private sources, including defective sewer service lines and improperly connected sump pumps, downspouts, and foundation drains. Excessive I/I increases the need to build larger and more expensive sewer pipes and treatment facilities.

For more information: https://metrocouncil.org/Wastewater-Water/Planning/Wastewater/Inflow-and-Infiltration.aspx

Communities in SPAAR’s jurisdiction that have Inflow and Infiltration Point of Sale Ordinances

  1. Columbia Heights
  2. Mounds View
  3. Newport
  4. Saint Anthony Village
  5. West Saint Paul

Support for Highland Bridge, Rice Creek Commons, RiversEdge, The Heights, etc.

In recent years, as the housing shortage has worsened, SPAAR has made it a priority to support new housing developments in our territory. One important aspect of these developments is their commitment to sustainable and green practices. At the Highland Bridge site in St. Paul, they will have more than 10 miles of bike and pedestrian paths, more than 55 acres of parks and open spaces, and will be run on 100% electric energy thanks to the Twin Cities largest urban solar array. Rice Creek Commons, a former Twin Cities Army Ammunition Plant, formerly the largest contaminated site in Minnesota, has been cleaned up and will have an abundance of parks, trails, and open space. RiversEdge, a project right on the Mississippi in St. Paul, would add more than 9 acres of public space for a world-class urban park, expand public access to the Mississippi River, and include additional trails for bikers, walkers and runners. And finally, The Heights, which used to be the Hillcrest Golf Course, has lofty sustainability goals. “If we’re successful in meeting our sustainability goals, The Heights could be one of the first Net Zero communities in the country with a Platinum LEED for Communities certification.” Support for sustainable housing developments will remain a priority for SPAAR’s advocacy.


For more information about Highland Bridge: https://highlandbridge.com/

For more information about Rice Creek Commons: https://www.ramseycounty.us/rice-creek-commons

For more information about RiversEdge: https://www.ramseycounty.us/your-government/projects-initiatives/economic-development-initiatives/riversedge

For more information about The Heights: https://sppa.com/construction-at-the-heights

Realtors® Charitable Foundation

The Realtors® Charitable Foundation works to improve the quality of life within communities where our members live and work. Since 1988, the REALTORS® Charitable Foundation has made a difference by awarding over $550,000 in grants within our service area. Some of the organizations served by our efforts include Habitat for Humanity, Housing Our Heroes, Rebuilding Together Twin Cities, and Meals from the Heart. Many of the grants that have been received by local nonprofits have been focused on sustainability and community development.

For more information on SPAAR’s Realtor Charitable Foundation, visit: https://spaar.com/realtors-charitable-foundation/