Regional group briefed on “missing middle” housing

Changes to land use rules are being made across the region to allow for additional density to create what planners and developers refer to as “missing middle” housing. The term was coined by Dan Parolek in 2010. 

“His focus is on small units and making them feasible to build in neighborhoods where only large single-family houses currently exist,” said Emily Hamilton is a senior research fellow and director of the Urbanity Project at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University.

An image from Parolek’s website, missingmiddle.org

Hamilton was one of the speakers at the latest discussion run by the Central Virginia Regional Housing Partnership on Thursday. She said additional flexibility to allow more housing can lead to units becoming more affordable. (watch the video)

“In some of the cases where we see lots of small in-fill construction happening there is that increased flexibility where for example large duplex units or townhouses can be built in places where exclusively detached single family houses would have been permitted previously,” Hamilton said.

The recent adoption of the Crozet Master Plan as well as the Future Land Use Map in the Charlottesville Comprehensive Plan are both intended to encourage the production of these units and developers have responded. Many community members have pushed back, as seen this week in Scottsville when community opposition may have led to a deferral of two special use permits.

However, Hamilton said this is how houses in communities used to be built.

“Historically in an era before zoning we saw that what we would now call missing middle was often times the bread and butter housing of working and middle income Americans because it has lower per-foot construction costs compared to a large multi-family building,” Hamilton said. 

The topic comes up a lot in the community. Here are two examples I’ve not yet had the chance to review completely:

  • The Places29-North Community Advisory Committee was introduced to the new Middle Density Residential category at its meeting on January 13. (watch the video)
  • The Crozet Community Advisory Committee discussed a planned residential community within that designated growth area on January 12. (watch the video)

Before you go: The time to write and research of this article is covered by paid subscribers to Charlottesville Community Engagement. In fact, this particular installment comes from the January 21, 2022 edition of the program. To ensure this research can be sustained, please consider becoming a paid subscriber or contributing monthly through Patreon.

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