missing middle housing

Creating missing middle housing is a solution to the housing shortage, yet in most places, it is illegal because zoning won’t allow it. So, in essence, missing middle housing is a great solution, yet it remains missing.

According to the National Association of Home Builders, missing middle housing includes townhouses, duplexes and various multi-family properties. This medium-density sector has been decreasing since the Great Recession. There is a huge shortage of 2- and 4-unit properties.  

The production of this sector remained flat from the year prior as buyers only saw 4,000 new 2- to 4-unit housing constructed in the fourth quarter of 2023.  In terms of all multifamily housing, 2- to 4-unit housing barely scraped 4% of the total for Q4. Compared to just under 11% in the years 2000-2010, the missing middle is lagging greatly and will continue without necessary reform. Additional missing middle housing could be achieved in the form of “light touch density” (LTD) housing. This principle relates to slowly integrating multi-family properties to meet the need for missing middle housing. LTD housing increases supply and provides a middle price point for buyers and renters, as well as the smaller-sized units they crave.  

“Unfortunately, that middle square footage that we are looking for, 1,200 to 2,200 square feet, is missing,” said John Hunt, Principal and Chief Analyst at MarketNsight. “Today’s zoning is really polarized, it’s either detached-single family… or apartments.” 

MarketNsight advocates for multi-unit housing types, such as duplexes, multiplexes and bungalow courts, common to walkable pre-1940s neighborhoods. Hunt said “missing middle housing” provides affordable options for entry-level homebuyers and younger generations. 

Last month the issue for varied housing types was addressed in North Fulton County. The county’s Improvement Network, a poverty task force, spoke up about the need for missing middle housing in their area. North Fulton County consists of six cities — Alpharetta, Johns Creek, Milton, Mountain Park, Roswell and Sandy Springs. This area is one of the best for living, working and raising a family in the United States. Unfortunately, there is not much housing inventory available at affordable price points. Statistics from the Federal Reserve indicate that the median income of North Fulton is $91,522 and the affordable housing price is approximately $443,943. There are currently three homes in the county within that range and 48 rental units available at $2,299 a month. The Improvement Network is continuing to address this issue with local lawmakers and hopefully, change will be seen soon. 

There is pressure coming from newer generations, specifically Millennials. They want homes that fit their lifestyles, but there just isn’t enough housing inventory to go around. Much like the Boomers who are downsizing, Millennials like smaller homes that are walkable to community hotspots like dining, entertainment and retail.  

Action is being taken in other states to remove restrictive zoning and begin building homes in this missing middle category. Minnesota, North Carolina, Washington and other states are making housing accessible to younger generations and promoting economic diversity. This development gives local business and community sustainability a boost. 

Missing middle housing is still lacking in Georgia but there is hope. If zoning restrictions can be loosened to allow for construction of these smaller product types, there will be more opportunity for affordable housing for all generations. Conversations have started in many municipalities. Hopefully, yours is one of them! 


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