What is the “Missing Middle” of Housing?

Land Development
Contact: Nicholas Julian
(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.

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 http://opticosdesign.com/ and http://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. 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

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    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 housing type.

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  • 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.

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Missing Middle Housing Overview Learn what missing middle housing is, the types of housing it includes, and how different communities are incorporating them.