“Is missing middle housing more affordable than the
alternative? Yes, but any home in a desirable close-in
location is going to be expensive. Period,” said Linda
Pruett, owner of the Cottage Company in Seattle, which
develops pocket communities of small upscale homes
— priced in the $600,000 range — clustered around
a garden court.
That doesn’t mean missing middle housing shouldn’t be
part of the affordable housing conversation, Pruett said,
but there are limits to where and how it can make the
“It isn’t a silver bullet that’s going to solve every region’s
housing affordability issue, but it does provide relative
affordability and better utilization of the single most
expensive input into housing — and that’s the land,”
The math is pretty simple. Duplexes, townhomes, bungalow courts and other missing middle housing types
provide more units on less land than traditional single-family homes. The units are smaller, but people pay less
for them than a single-family home. They also enjoy
the added tradeoff of living in a walkable urban neighborhood. At the same time, developers can make more
money on the same property because costs are spread
across multiple units.
“Missing middle housing can provide a nice range of
affordability by design if the (regulatory) barriers are
removed,” Parolek said.
While opportunities to drive affordability through missing middle infill development are limited in the San
Franciscos, Denvers and Bostons of the country, they are
more readily available in many next tier cities. Reimer
has built or rehabbed 380 units of missing middle rental
housing in Omaha’s once declining but now thriving
Midtown neighborhood. “We are getting credit for turning the neighborhood around,” Reimer said.
Reimer is in the unique position of developing and owning both missing middle housing and new suburban
apartment buildings. Rents for the missing middle units
are only modestly higher than for the suburban apartments — $900-$1,400 compared to $750-$1,300 — so
they remain affordable to much of the workforce.
One reason for that is Omaha “isn’t traffic constrained,”
Reimer said. Missing middle rents can’t stray too far
Missing middle housing types provide
more units on less land than
traditional single-family homes.
Opticos Design designed a collection of townhomes in
Daybreak, Utah, to meet affordable housing needs.
Habersham, S.C., a mix of residential housing types.
Courtesy of Habersham Properties
Courtesy of Opticos Design