“Missing Middle” Housing?

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For many households, the right type of house, in the right location, at the right price point can’t be found because it no longer exists.
— Building Housing for All Ages, Where we Live, AARP

Across the U.S. there is a mismatch between the available housing and what's needed. You may have heard the term "Missing Middle". This refers to housing options like duplexes, triplexes, courtyard apartments, bungalow courts, townhouses, small multifamily buildings and live/work units. This shortage is partly due to shifting demographics including an aging population and smaller households but also the desire to walk to the neighborhood grocery or pub. While more and more Americans do not have the desire or need for large homes, Missing Middle housing blends in with the existing single family neighborhoods more readily than larger mid-rise apartment buildings.

This backyard cottage was designed for a young family in Seattle’s Georgetown neighborhood

This backyard cottage was designed for a young family in Seattle’s Georgetown neighborhood

Missing middle housing types typically have smaller unit sizes. The goal is to create well-designed spaces that are comfortable and function at a higher level than a larger space.  Although it’s not a 1:1 savings, smaller units are less costly to build than larger units.  By developing smaller units, developers are able to provide more housing units which results in lower costs to buyers.  Missing middle housing can be built at a lower cost than apartments if options like outdoors stairs can be designed into the project.  Apartment buildings often have interior corridors, fire stairs and elevators which result in inefficient use of space compared to Missing Middle housing types.  Building materials also contribute to the high cost of mid-rise apartment and high-rise construction.  Duplexes, triplexes, and other missing middle housing types are often built entirely from wood instead of concrete and steel.  While all material costs have gone up in recent years, wood is still a low-cost material in comparison to the alternatives

The Central District Duplex includes a 3 bedroom home that includes a separate apartment

The Central District Duplex includes a 3 bedroom home that includes a separate apartment

Missing middle housing can often be inserted into current development patterns, even suburban housing cul-de-sacs.  In cities like San Francisco, single family housing is not an option for the majority of the population due to the high cost associated with development.  Providing a mix of higher density developments, like duplexes, triplexes, courtyard housing and smaller apartment buildings, would open up more options at more affordable prices for more people.  Missing Middle housing is at a shortage and we need to build more of it.  

The Six Top is a 6 unit townhouse project on Tacoma’s Hilltop

The Six Top is a 6 unit townhouse project on Tacoma’s Hilltop

The 2 X 6 is a small courtyard housing project that centers around a shared outdoor space

The 2 X 6 is a small courtyard housing project that centers around a shared outdoor space

John Wolters