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Housing: Missing in the Middle

Duplex designed in a style compatible with single family neighborhoods. Photo credit: Dan Parolek, author of Missing Middle Housing

Photo credit: Dan Parolek, author of Missing Middle Housing; Missingmiddlehousing.com

By Steve Schnell, Charlevoix County Housing Ready Program Director, Housing North

Housing supply on the market is at an historic low. In the 40 years that data has been collected, there have never been fewer homes for sale. Building costs are skyrocketing. Home prices are rising exponentially faster than household incomes. To meet housing needs, we must offer more homes at lower prices. A return to our history is one solution that is gaining traction. In the 1920s and 1930s our housing supply had a higher proportion of housing types that were multi-family. The housing type that we are missing today that worked so well a century ago to meet housing needs are in demand again. People are demanding a smaller multi-family living situation located closer to downtown and in a walkable neighborhood with lower rents and attainable purchase prices.

Missing Middle Housing is a term coined by Dan Parolek. The term describes a range of house-scale buildings with multiple units—compatible in scale and form with detached single-family homes—located in a walkable neighborhood. This type of housing can look like a larger single-family home or a group of townhouses. A multi-family home can easily be designed in such a way to be very compatible with any residential neighborhood on the outside. On the inside the capacity of the building is larger than one would expect, housing 2 to 4 families.

Communities can do a lot to help meet the demand for housing by creating more missing middle housing types. Zoning ordinances are often the most identifiable challenge to Missing Middle housing. Communities in Norther Michigan, such as Boyne City, East Jordan, and Charlevoix are taking steps necessary to create more housing opportunities. Small changes to a zoning ordinance can make big improvements to our housing stock by allowing a home to be converted to a duplex. This small change can create many more housing opportunities in our communities. Read more about Missing Middle housing at www.missingmiddlehousing.com Read more about what you can do to create more housing opportunities at www.homeforourfuture.org

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