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Planners think U.S. cities need more ‘middle’ housing

Posted by urbanequity on February 15, 2018

Urban planners are considering “missing middle” housing as a way to meet a growing demand for walkable urban housing. This “missing middle” is low-rise housing built at a scale that’s compatible with single-family houses, but at higher densities.

One example of middle housing is the four-plexes found in some of Tampa’s older neighborhoods. In the Tampa Bay area, this type of housing dates back at least the late 1800s with the construction of shotgun-style casitas so Ybor City immigrants could live near their cigar factory jobs. Since then, it grew to include duplexes, triplexes, townhomes, courtyard apartments, apartments over storefronts, and multiplexes with less than 10 units.

“It’s not an intimidating type of structure. It fits into the existing neighborhoods very well,” says Brett Burks, a program planner at the county planning agency Forward Pinellas, during a recent panel discussion. The higher density projects can serve as a bridge between suburban style neighborhoods of houses on bigger lots and edges of downtowns or busy commercial corridors.

“You increase density without impacting the character of existing neighborhoods,” Burks says.

Middle housing could also add to the diversity of housing stock, pricing and homebuyer opportunities. In Pinellas County, for example, detached single-family houses constitute nearly half the housing stock, yet more than 77 percent of county households do not have children. Missing middle housing with two to nine units makes up only 13 percent of the housing stock.

In addition, middle housing can appeal to first-time home buyers, childless couples, smaller families, residents with disabilities, retirees who want to scale down and people ready to give up their cars.

Source: Tampa Bay Times (01/30/18) Danielson, Richard

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