“Missing Middle” supporters market a fantasy of close-knit, automobile-free neighborhoods that house a diverse mix of families, seniors, and college students. The question isn’t whether or not that fantasy is appealing, it is whether the policies proposed in the Missing Middle plan help to achieve that fantasy.
The “Missing Middle” would increase housing density. More people living in less space, without requirements to add necessary infrastructure such as parking, bus lines, or sidewalks. MM encourages absentee owner redevelopment of existing affordable single-family homes by allowing them to develop ADUs with no parking requirements. Because the MM is based on the current bus lines, higher density middle and low-income neighborhoods will see even greater density while current lower density upper-income neighborhoods will be mostly untouched.
The forty-three MM provisions essentially lighten restrictions on re-developers in hopes that allowing multiplexes to be built on smaller lots in low to middle income neighborhoods and supplant existing “starter” homes will increase the affordability and number of rental units. The effects of most of these provisions have not been studied by the city.
How well will the “Missing Middle” provisions meet the real housing need? Published city estimates show a minimal impact on housing levels, resulting in less than 5% of the estimated 20-year need for new units. So why is adoption of the Missing Middle provisions an imperative?
Before moving forward with this plan, the city needs to perform additional research and develop a plan that invests in sustainable neighborhoods with sound infrastructure.