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Missing Middle Housing: An Austin Case Study

The "missing middle" of housing is a concept familiar to many planners, but it's still probably unknown to most of the public. A story for Austin's NPR station could be an indication that the missing middle is entering the public consciousness.
May 26, 2017, 1pm PDT | James Brasuell | @CasualBrasuell
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Tricia Danie

Audrey McGlinchy kicks off the first of a two-part series about missing-middle housing and CodeNEXT—the city of Austin's ongoing zoning code update—with the story of Annette Naish, who lives in a two-bedroom, one-and-a-half-bath bought for $57,000 in the late 1990s. "Naish lives in a fourplex, or one unit in a group of four attached homes. It’s a rare breed in Austin. Some say it’s missing," writes McGlinchy.

"The term 'missing-middle' housing was coined by the head of Opticos Design Inc., the consultant helping the City of Austin with CodeNEXT, the rewrite of the land development code," adds McGlinchy, to begin the explainer of a concept usually in the purview of APA conferences and Planetizen posts.

The public is more and more aware of the issues of housing affordability around the country, so it makes sense that more and more of the public should be aware of the missing middle concept.

Researchers at the University of Southern California Price School of Public Policy recently found that the construction of missing-middle housing peaked in the 1970s and '80s. (Naish’s fourplex, for example, was built in 1972.) But since 1990, the construction of missing-middle housing has made up only about 15 percent of new housing stock in the U.S.

The article includes more on the case for missing middle housing, especially the benefits of affordability relative to the other types of housing available in Austin, and cities around the country. It should also not come as a surprise that missing middle housing is one of the goals of the code regulations proposed by the draft versions of CodeNEXT, released in February.

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Published on Thursday, May 25, 2017 in KUT
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