'Missing Middle Housing Act' Would Allow More Housing Options in Nebraska Residential Areas

The ranks of states considering or taking steps to override local control to allow new density in the residential neighborhoods of cities has swelled once again, this time with a state senator in Nebraska pitching statewide legislation.

January 13, 2020, 11:00 AM PST

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell

Nebraska City

The city of Scottsbluff, with a 2018 estimated population under 15,000, would be subject to the zoning requirements of the Missing Middle Housing Act. | marekuliasz / Shutterstock

Nebraska State Senator Matt Hansen (D-Lincoln) introduced new legislation to kickoff the 2020 legislative session, proposing LB 794, or the Missing Middle Housing Act.

The text of the bill [pdf] charts a new path for planning history by first referencing 20th century planning paradigms:

Following World War II, municipal zoning codes, ordinances, and regulations in Nebraska and throughout the United States have prioritized detached single-family homes and mid-rise to high-rise apartment buildings over other forms of housing stock;

Here's where the bill makes the case for a new approach to housing and zoning:

Amending municipal zoning codes and ordinances to permit varied types of housing stock will provide greater availability of affordable housing, increase residential density, promote more efficient and effective land use, and create conditions for successful mass transit, bikeability, walkability, and affordability in residential neighborhoods.

If passed, the bill would mandate every city with more than 5,000 people (i.e., including metropolitan class, primary class, and first class cities) in the state to allow missing middle housing in areas previously zoned exclusively for single-family detached residential. The bill is also careful to mention repeatedly that opening single-family zoning to missing middle housing does not mean that single-family housing will be blocked from new construction.

Hansen, a self-proclaimed Millennial, took to Twitter to describe the need for the bill, and referenced a 2017 Washington Post article by Katherine Shaver to build the case.

While media coverage of the new bill has been scant so far, local television station KOLN/KGIN covered the announcement of the bill, and interviewed Hansen on the bill. Hansen mentions a study by the Urban Affairs Committee of the State Senate into the issue previous to the new bill.

After Oregon adopted a similar law in 2019, several states have proposed new laws that would override local control of single-family housing to increase housing development options in cities in the name of affordable housing. California, Virginia, Maryland, and now Nebraska are currently considering such bills.

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