What is Missing Middle Housing?


Although housing affordability has typically been a concern mainly for the lowest income households, housing prices in Arlington have escalated to the point where even those earning moderate incomes struggle to find housing that meets their needs. This is particularly true for new single-family homes and townhomes, while condominiums tend to be significantly more affordable.

The lack of many housing options that fall in-between more expensive single-family homes and condominiums or apartments within smaller multi-unit buildings has been referred to as the “Missing Middle” of the housing market. These housing types, including duplexes, four-plexes and other small multi-unit properties, were often built in the early 1900’s in many American cities and towns but became much less common in the latter half of the 20th century. Today, many communities, including parts of Arlington, are dominated by large and expensive single-family homes and high-end townhomes that are out of reach for middle-income households.

Increasing the availability of these missing middle housing types can provide more variety in housing options and price points for a community.  This makes it more possible for households such as young professionals, retirees, small families and others to find a place to live that meets their needs, contributing to a more diverse and vibrant community.

Defining Missing Middle Housing

The term can be defined in many ways, primarily referring to housing types and designs with the following characteristics:

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  • The scale of the structures falls in between single-family homes and mid-rise multifamily housing, and is generally compatible in height and bulk with single-family neighborhoods.

  • Includes more than one dwelling unit per lot, such as a single-family home with an accessory dwelling (either internal or external), a condominium, or rental units.

  • Smaller unit sizes and modest amenities have the potential to keep prices and rents down naturally, creating a more feasible housing option for middle-income buyers and renters.

  • Can be built incrementally on small or modest-size lots without the need for large land consolidation.

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