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Thread: Missing Middle Housing type graphic

  1. #1
    Cyburbian Plus
    Jun 2003

    Missing Middle Housing type graphic

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    Had you considered this discussion ?

  2. #2
    Cyburbian dvdneal's avatar
    Jan 2009
    Remote command post at local bar
    I've always supported the idea of a good duplex, quadplex, or some kind of compact single family living. I think there are several problems with getting it done. We as a society associate these to low income and don't want to be around that. We forget that students and the elderly are also low income and they're okay, kind of. Besides, houses like that are great for families that are moving or trying to move up. It's hard to jump from renting an apartment to putting a down payment on a $300,000 house, but something under $100,000 might be a little easier. They're also great for lazy people like me who hate to take care of yards, but I have kids so I have to have one. Another problem, I don't see a lot of developers building this kind of product. I wonder if the money is better on single family, but it sounds like you would get more lots by doing bungalows. I have seen some of the builders do "6 pack" lots, which is close to the bungalow idea, but badly done. There is no center court yard and no density nearby where I saw them built. It's just a house with no yard. My last problem, I think we still think duplexes look like this thing. The well designed I think is key.
    I don't pretend to understand Brannigan's Law. I merely enforce it.

  3. #3
    moderator in moderation Suburb Repairman's avatar
    Jun 2003
    at the neighboring pub
    We're pushing the missing middle concept with our UDC rewrite and I'm a big supporter of the concept.

    This is a good example of well-intended planners creating unintended consequences. There were a lot of really crappy duplex, triplex & 4-plex types of of buildings constructed in the 50s & 60s with very poor design & construction that, combined with other housing assistance programs coming online at that time, created a problematic perception that we are only now in the very early stages of getting over.

    "Oh, that is all well and good, but, voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country."

    - Herman Göring at the Nuremburg trials (thoughts on democracy)

  4. #4
    Cyburbian The One's avatar
    Mar 2004
    Vegas BABY!!
    Blog entries


    The missing middle here in the West was largely due to cheap land and easy availability to build single family homes in all areas. The multiplex apartments have always been the "middle" between about 1980 and 2000 in my view. These middle densities could be VERY appealing to the public if:
    1. Designed Right
    2. Land cost savings were passed on to buyers
    3. Maintenance fee's were not so crazy high
    4. City management would have the intestinal fortitude to support compact cities vs. sprawl.
    5. City management and Econ-Development (aka Developer Support Departments) took the time to run the numbers and find out more units = more tax revenue = more people = more sales tax.
    6. City management had the balls to require good design/density mixes and not just approve multiplex apartments.
    “The way of acquiescence leads to moral and spiritual suicide. The way of violence leads to bitterness in the survivors and brutality in the destroyers. But, the way of non-violence leads to redemption and the creation of the beloved community.”
    Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
    - See more at: http://www.thekingcenter.org/king-ph....r7W02j3S.dpuf

  5. #5
    Jul 2008
    Illinois as of 1/1/09
    Quote Originally posted by dvdneal View post
    I've always supported the idea of a good duplex, quadplex, or some kind of compact single family living. I think there are several problems with getting it done. We as a society associate these to low income and don't want to be around that. We forget that students and the elderly are also low income and they're okay, kind of.
    I find it interesting the "density is bad" crowd fails to explain why the most dense places in our country are also the most desirable and wealthy. Sure, there are a lot of terrible places with high density but if density is so bad why are the rents in Manhattan, San Francisco, and the Loop so expensive? I know the answer, just think it's interesting how people don't give any thought to "well-designed density" being good.

  6. #6
    Jul 2010
    BC, Canada
    I think the missing middle is critical if we are to build better cities in our growing expensive cities in particular (e.g. the coasts) where housing demand is increasing. Peter Calthorpe's assessment of future demand in California is a case in point - showing lots of demand for compact small lot housing.

    What I see happening in too many places is land remains locked into large lots (6,000-10,000 square feet or more). With a bit of will its not that hard to meet multi-family demand, but doing good missing middle housing - especially ground oriented forms like townhomes and cottages - in sufficient quantity is more difficult because densities may only be 8-20 units per acre. Without these options, families are then faced with staying in apartments/condos or moving to farflung exurbs (often on a small lot there). While some talk up how the new generation will live and raise families in "compact, walkable" apartments, that scenario doesn't meet most people's values - even many hipsters want bungalows and townhomes.

    So I would say yes it is very important. From a "ground oriented housing" perspective, I feel its important that missing middle forms look and feel like what people appreciate in a single family home - individual entrances, and a small yard or court with greenery and privacy.

    This is where all the challenges The One talks about come in. While the photo below is shabby, what I often see today in new urbanism and some infill is a 3-story townhome where the first floor is almost all garage and there is no backyard because its all driveway - once the needed density, circulation and garages are provided, there's nothing left for yards. I think we can do better, but we may need to make some hard decisions such as: can we build townhomes relying only on on-street parking; might it be OK to have front-loaded single garages if the facade is decent (historically its done in San Francisco); can a subdivided unit front onto an improved alleyway; etc.

    With a bit of will, I think we can start to look at options like replacing a larger lot home with cottage clusters, duplexes or townhomes, or alley-fronting "carriage houses" in the right places - perhaps by looking at collector streets, corner lots, or neighborhoods with oversized lots as opportunities. My preference would be for more modest size units (higher density of units) than fewer large, high priced units. As long as its a niche product, permitted only in small quantities in the most desirable neighborhoods, it will be expensive.

    One of the challenges I've encountered in promoting this idea is that many people in the west of the country, or who didn't grow up in big cities, are unfamiliar with many missing middle housing types. At one place I worked, there was resistance to townhomes as entry-level housing because it was considered "unfair" for moderate income people to live in an attached unit. Also, it seems to me many modern townhome developments are seen more as alternatives to a condo (hence the no-backyard phenomenon) than as alternatives to the single family home. Its not like, say Toronto or Pittsburgh where the row-home or classic duplex is common.

    I think the fact that "missing middle" is finding its way into the planning world's jargon is good - my love of this housing form goes back to first visiting classic east coast cities as a university student.

    I've certainly seen some good examples of ground-oriented infill toolkits (Portland, OR or Coquitlam, BC, for example) as well as cottage housing ordinances (several communities in Washington State).

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