increased density. A recent proposal to adjust Seattle’s zoning code to allow certain missing middle housing types
in single-family neighborhoods was shot down in a barrage of protest.
Austin, Texas, is in the midst of a similar — but still on
track — effort to embrace missing middle housing as it
updates its land use development code. “There are opportunities if you can get the right land use regulations to
allow for it,” said Paul Hilgers, CEO of the Austin Board
of REALTORS® (ABOR).
The missing middle describes a range of housing, but it
also describes a range of buyers and renters who don’t
qualify for subsidies but struggle to find market-rate hous-
ing in cities like Austin. “Our inventory is very low (and)
housing prices are rising 10 percent a year,” Hilgers said.
“The housing stock is not being created for people at the
middle income level.”
The housing they can afford is being built longer and
longer distances away with unintended consequences
like increased traffic congestion, higher household
transportation costs and the need to invest in additional
public services like schools. “The more you can stimulate
missing middle housing in the urban core, the less need
for developments farther out from the city,” Hilgers said.
Aided by a housing opportunity grant from the
NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®, ABOR
enlisted the Urban Land Institute (ULI) to help the city,
developers and community learn how to create more middle income housing by encouraging more missing middle
housing. Recommendations from the ULI report include:
• Allow missing middle housing in more zones by using
form-based codes instead of density-based codes.
• Streamline the review process for select missing middle
• Work with the community to demonstrate the compatibility of missing middle housing with existing neighborhoods.
The state of Michigan has made missing middle housing a
cornerstone of its placemaking initiative that aims to help
cities retain and attract businesses and workers by helping
them improve their quality of life.
Concerned about the migration of talented young workers
to other states, Michigan studied where they’re all going.
The answer is all over, but the top destination by far is Chi-
cago. The study also found that most of them — unless
There are opportunities if
you can get the right land use
regulations to allow for it.
Talented young workers choose to live in
neighborhoods filled with missing middle housing types.
Photos courtesy of Michigan Municipal League/ mml.org