What is the “Missing Middle” of Housing?

Land Development
Contact: Nicholas Julian
Senior Program Manager, Land Use
(202) 266-8309

Row of houses

In terms of affordability, we tend to think of a dichotomy between single-family detached homes and apartments and townhouses, and people quickly become concerned about increasing density affecting neighborhood character. One way many communities in the United States are increasing density while maintaining a streetscape that is compatible with single-family housing types is to incorporate the concept of “missing middle” housing types.

Benefits of Diverse Housing Options

Missing middle housing can assist in both increasing the number of units built and providing units for a wide variety of price points. This involves allowing a broader diversity of housing types than most ordinances allow today, but that used to be built in many communities historically. Opticos Founder Dan Parolek coined the phrase “missing middle” housing to describe a range of multi-unit or clustered housing types. (See opticosdesign.com and missingmiddlehousing.com for more information).

Because land costs and home size often limit affordability, a classic solution is to aim for greater density and/or smaller lots and/or smaller homes. Missing middle housing examples include:

  • Single-family cottages
  • Duplexes
  • Townhomes
  • Bungalow courts
  • Carriage houses

These and other missing middle housing types provide more units on less land that traditional single-family homes.

Illustrating “Missing Middle” Housing Types

  • Article

    Accessory Dwelling Units

    An increasing number of communities around the United States are exploring accessory dwelling units (ADUs) as a potential solution to housing affordability. Learn more about this missing middle housing type.

    Read more
  • Article

    Form-based Codes

    Form-based codes prescribe a desired form, placement, size and bulk of buildings as they relate to each other within a block or neighborhood. They may be a substitute for all or part of the zoning ordinance of a city or town.

    Read more
Missing Middle Housing Overview

Learn what missing middle housing is, missing middle housing types, and how different communities are incorporating them.