Norfolk's 'Missing Middle Pattern Book' Aims to Streamline Permitting for Multi-Family Housing

Acknowledging the region's dire need for more diverse housing stock, city leaders hope the pre-approved designs, along with necessary zoning reforms, will encourage more construction of 'missing middle housing.'

2 minute read

August 5, 2021, 12:00 PM PDT

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction

Skyline of Norfolk, Virginia

PghPhxNfk / Norfolk, Virginia

"Last month Norfolk’s city council approved a Missing Middle Pattern Book full of free designs and schematics for dozens of so-called 'middle housing': duplexes, quadplexes and the city’s iconic 'Norfolk six-packs.'" According to Wyatt Gordon, "[t]he move marks the latest attempt by a Virginia locality to encourage more middle housing, the array of options that lie between single-family detached homes and large apartment buildings."

"The concept of a missing middle in our housing market grew out of the reality that for the last 80 years America has built little housing of a scale between single-family structures and multi-story apartments," housing which tends to be more affordable due to lower land and construction costs. Dan Parolek, principal of Opticos Design and author of Missing Middle Housing, says that "[p]eople often visualize adding more units means that the building will get bigger and bigger, but some of the examples identified in the pattern book demonstrate that you can have a house-scale building with multiple units in it. The concept has been so useful and popular because it gives planners and architects the tools to talk with homeowners about more housing without scary words like density."

Encouraging more missing middle housing takes more than just raising the number of allowable units per lot. "Minimum-lot sizes, mandatory setbacks and off street parking requirements are just a few of the restrictive regulations that have tilted the scales towards single-family, detached housing over the last eight decades. Undoing the layers of laws holding back missing middle housing may prove no easy task." But the pattern book presents an opportunity to streamline the process and expedite permitting through pre-approvals. As housing pressures continue to mount, "cities need to think creatively about how to deliver more housing for residents. Missing middle housing can deliver more attainable housing units at more affordable price points," says Parolek.

Monday, July 26, 2021 in Greater Greater Washington

Large blank mall building with only two cars in large parking lot.

Pennsylvania Mall Conversion Bill Passes House

If passed, the bill would promote the adaptive reuse of defunct commercial buildings.

April 18, 2024 - Central Penn Business Journal

Rendering of wildlife crossing over 101 freeway in Los Angeles County.

World's Largest Wildlife Overpass In the Works in Los Angeles County

Caltrans will soon close half of the 101 Freeway in order to continue construction of the Wallis Annenberg Wildlife Crossing near Agoura Hills in Los Angeles County.

April 15, 2024 - LAist

Workers putting down asphalt on road.

U.S. Supreme Court: California's Impact Fees May Violate Takings Clause

A California property owner took El Dorado County to state court after paying a traffic impact fee he felt was exorbitant. He lost in trial court, appellate court, and the California Supreme Court denied review. Then the U.S. Supreme Court acted.

April 18, 2024 - Los Angeles Times

View from back of BART Police SUV driving down street in San Francisco, California.

Podcast: Addressing the Root Causes of Transit Violence

Deploying transit police is a short-term fix. How can transit agencies build sustainable safety efforts?

58 minutes ago - Streetsblog USA

Sunset view of downtown Minneapolis, Minnesota skyline.

Minneapolis as a Model for Housing Affordability

Through a combination of policies, the city has managed to limit the severity of the nationwide housing crisis.

1 hour ago - Brown Political Review

Row of yellow Pacers Bikeshare bikes at station in downtown Indianapolis, Indiana.

Indy Bikeshare System Turns 10, Expands to E-Bikes

Pacers Bikeshare riders logged over 700,000 rides since the system launched in 2014.

2 hours ago - Indy Today

News from HUD User

HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research

Call for Speakers

Mpact Transit + Community

New Updates on PD&R Edge

HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research

Urban Design for Planners 1: Software Tools

This six-course series explores essential urban design concepts using open source software and equips planners with the tools they need to participate fully in the urban design process.

Planning for Universal Design

Learn the tools for implementing Universal Design in planning regulations.