Housing that is affordable for low- and moderate-income households is in tremendously short supply in rural, urban and suburban communities throughout the United States. This lack of housing can destabilize families, neighborhoods and schools and lead to job loss and workforce shortages.
Housing security is a complex issue and increasing the supply of middle housing is a strategy for addressing the significant shortages in almost every state. Middle housing occupies the middle ground between large-lot, single-family homes and large apartment complexes and is missing from the available housing stock.
Typical middle housing types include multi-unit structures such as townhomes, duplexes, triplexes and fourplexes, as well as cottage courts or cluster homes. From a design and zoning standpoint, missing middle housing is characterized by efficient use of land, thoughtful design, minimal parking, high walkability and public transit quotients, and a strong neighborhood orientation.
Since the 1910’s, zoning laws typically have prohibited these types of developments in single-family neighborhoods, thus they are in short supply. However, they are gaining favor in the context of today’s extreme housing shortage. These housing options have capacity for more community members than single-family residences but are less densely populated than high-rise apartments. This strategy also has the potential to increase housing supply on a scale and design quality acceptable to neighbors.
Some state and local governments are beginning to close the supply gap by reforming housing policies to encourage the development of middle housing.