How Virginia Communities Are Encouraging 'Missing Middle Housing'

Local leaders hope that streamlining permit processes and eliminating restrictive zoning regulations will set the groundwork for increased production of small and mid-sized multi-family housing.

2 minute read

August 12, 2021, 7:00 AM PDT

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction


Roanoke, Virginia

Andriy Blokhin / Shutterstock

As cities across the Commonwealth look to zoning reform to accommodate higher density and create more housing stock, Wyatt Gordon examines the "missing middle housing" programs being implemented in Norfolk and Arlington, both exploring options for expanding allowable housing types. 

As covered here last week, Norfolk has published a Missing Middle Pattern Book designed to make new housing development more streamlined and affordable. "People 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," says Dan Parolek, author of Missing Middle Housing.

Meanwhile, Arlington, where 75 percent of residential land is zoned for single-family homes, is considering relaxing its zoning code to allow a broader diversity of multi-family buildings. According to Arlington's comprehensive planning section supervisor, Kellie Brown, "[t]he existing zoning doesn’t allow for more missing middle housing, so there are limited opportunities to increase our housing supply under many local ordinances today." Creating the opportunity for more housing means reforming other restrictive regulations such as parking requirements and minimum lot sizes. 

"This is about meeting a need because developers are struggling to produce single-family homes at attainable price points,' says Parolek. "COVID was just the fuel on the fire of already increasing housing prices, meaning cities need to think creatively about how to deliver more housing for residents."

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