How to Think Big and Build Small to Address Housing Demand

Filed in Education, Housing Affordability, Multifamily by on August 21, 2019 1 Comment

Housing affordability is a growing concern to NAHB members and the communities they serve. The public at large is becoming more aware of the problem, as a growing number of Democratic presidential hopefuls acknowledge that housing affordability is not just a millennial problem or a retiree problem, but a widespread problem that needs thoughtful, smart solutions.

Affordability issues didn’t arise simply because builders and developers opted to produce too many luxury rental apartments and too few “starter” single-family homes. In fact, there are many housing types that are smaller and more affordable to build, as well as to rent or buy. Many of these types were built before the 1940s but have since stopped being produced at the same rate. Why? Often, it’s because local zoning and building codes simply don’t permit it.

missing middle housing

NAHB Multifamily will present a webinar on Sept. 11 that will explore “missing middle housing,” a concept that describes housing types that range in scale from duplexes to bungalow courts and mansion apartments. These housing types are compatible in scale with single-family homes, but accommodate more people in a way that enables home buyers to enter the market for the first time. In the “Missing Middle Housing: Addressing Unmet Demand for Housing Choice” webinar, Dan Parolek of Opticos Design, based in Berkeley, Calif., will discuss code and zoning changes that would encourage such building types.

For example, duplexes can be rented or sold as two single-family homes ― a way for a young family to step onto the housing ladder. Other housing forms, such as triplexes, fourplexes, courtyard apartments, bungalow courts and multiplexes, provide an entry for builders and developers who might want to add a property management arm to their construction business ― or to sell to a stand-alone management group. Townhomes and live/work stacked flats also can be built for rent or for sale as condominiums.

The presentation will look at a variety of code fixes that some jurisdictions may need to adopt before building permits could be issued for “missing middle housing” types. The webinar will present examples of such building types, as well as examples of jurisdictions that have adopted small zoning code fixes or laws.

Registration for the webinar is free to Multifamily Council members, with discounted fees for members of other NAHB councils and NAHB members. NAHB non-members also can register to participate.


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  1. Bill Watt says:

    Often it is the builder’s reluctance to try an untested product in their marketplace that is a barrier to the production of that “Missing Middle” housing. Builders need to know that there are time tested tools like “Use Easements” that can solve the problem of providing usable private outdoor spaces on small lots in Clusters and Alley Loaded schemes . . . and cut costs at the same time.

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