Missing Middle (MM) has been presented as a solution for Olympia’s housing problems: low inventory, lack of affordability and variety, sprawl and inefficient infrastructure use. Its purpose is to densify existing residential neighborhoods.
Inventory: Thurston County Planning Council estimates that MM will increase total housing units by only 3-6 percent over unchanged zoning. The city admits that MM doesn’t create affordable housing, except indirectly, by increasing market-rate housing.
Variety: ADUs, cottages, townhouses, manufactured homes, and tiny houses are already allowed in residential neighborhoods. MM adds duplexes, triplexes, four-plexes and 12-unit blocks of townhouses and cottage developments. MM favors absentee-landlords over owner-occupied properties. MM doesn’t increase housing variety, it simply extends commercial development to residential neighborhoods, which will eventually eliminate a very attractive aspect of living near Olympia.
Affordability: One-bedroom apartments average $1,100 per month, which a third of Olympians can’t afford. But new construction won’t cost less, unless impact fees are reduced for smaller housing already allowed in residential areas, or economy-of-scale is achieved by building large apartment buildings with smaller apartments in commercial areas.
MM won’t stop suburban sprawl without regulations to prohibit it. After all, single-family housing is still in demand: if it can’t be found near town, it will be created in outlying areas.
MM ignores important parts of the Comprehensive Plan, like concentrating residential development in the nodes, preserving neighborhood character, and disallowing medium- or high-density development in low-density neighborhoods.
All MM design-review decisions to will be made by Planning Staff.
MM is bait and switch. We can do better.