What is Missing Middle Housing?
Missing Middle housing refers to multi-unit housing types that fall between single-family homes and mid-to-high-rise apartment buildings. They are often more accessible to families and individuals who cannot afford the high cost of single-family homes or the limited space of apartments. By allowing and incentivizing the development of Missing Middle housing, Arlington County hopes to increase the diversity of its housing stock and provide more affordable options for its residents.
Did the Missing Middle Housing Study Pass?
Yes. On March 22, 2023, the Arlington County Board voted 5-0 to pass new Zoning Ordinance and General Land Use Plan amendments related to the Missing Middle Housing Study to take effect on July 1, 2023 after a multiyear process.
What Are the Zoning Ordinance and General Land Use Plan Amendments?
Per the Arlington County website, a brief overview of the proposed amendments to previously single-family-zoned properties are as follows:
- Uses: Allow up to 6 units on a residential lot (duplexes, townhouses, and multiplexes with 3-6 units)
- Applicability: Allow EHO (Expanded Housing Options) development by-right on properties in the R-20, R-10, R-8, R-6, and R-5 zoning districts
- Annual Development Cap: Set an annual cap up to 58 permits with the following distribution method:
- 21 permits total spread across R-8, R-10, and R-20 districts
- 30 permits in the R-6 district
- 7 permits in the R-5 district
- Set a 5-year sunset of the annual cap
- Maximum Lot Coverage: Duplicate base lot coverage standards for single-family detached homes and provides additional allowed coverage even if a detached garage is not built
- Parking: Vary parking requirements based on transit proximity
- At least 0.5 parking spaces per unit on sites located entirely within a ¾ mile radius of a Metrorail station entrance or within ½ mile radius of a transit stop along the Premium Transit Network.
- At least 1 space per dwelling unit for all other locations – including those residential lots fronting on a cul-de-sac in transit-proximate areas
- For 2-4 units: Require a minimum of 4 shade trees
- For 5-6 units: Require a minimum of 8 shade trees
- Minimum Site Area:
- For 2-4 units: Set minimum site area to the same standards for single-detached homes in all districts
- For 5-6 units:
- Set minimum site area to the same standards as single-detached homes in R-6, R-8, R-10, and R-20 districts.
- Increase the minimum site area to 6,000 square feet for the R-5 district
- Gross Floor Area: Set the maximum floor area based on the housing types and/or unit type at the following square footage:
- Duplex: 4,800
- Semi-detached: 5,000
- 3 townhouses: 7,500
- 3-unit multiplex: 6,000
- 4-unit multiplex: 7,200
- 5- and 6-unit multiplex: 8,000
- Accessory Dwellings: Allow accessory dwellings (ADs) only in two scenarios (interior units within a townhouse or semi-detached home, exceptions for pre-existing ADs)
- Design and Layout Guidelines:
- Make the maximum building height, footprint, and minimum setbacks for EHO development the same as currently exists for single-detached homes
- Require EHO development to comply with site layout and design standards for compatibility with surrounding neighborhood
What Are Some of the Benefits of Missing Middle Housing?
- Increased Housing Diversity – By allowing for the development of these housing types, Arlington County can create diverse and inclusive communities that are accessible to a wider range of income levels.
- Affordability – These housing types are often more affordable than single-family homes, which can be out of reach for many middle-income households, and provide more space and privacy than apartments. This makes them a great option for families, young professionals, and retirees who are looking for a more affordable and practical housing solution.
- Walkability – Missing Middle housing also has the potential to improve walkability and create more vibrant neighborhoods. By promoting development that is compatible with the surrounding context, Arlington County can encourage the creation of more pedestrian-friendly neighborhoods that are closer to amenities such as shops, restaurants, and parks. This can help reduce reliance on cars and promote sustainable modes of transportation, like walking and cycling.
- Sustainability – The development of Missing Middle housing can also encourage the use of environmentally-friendly building materials and design, and help reduce the impact of new housing developments. With the recently updated stormwater management ordinances in Arlington County in conjunction with tree planting requirements related to Missing Middle development, Arlington can continue to be climate-forward as it grows.