Missing Middle Update
Arlington has been in Covid-19 mode since late March, limiting County Board meetings -- and meetings of committees -- to virtual mode. In addition, a number of uncertainties over the county budget have emerged, from school budgets for online learning to assistance for tenants facing eviction. Like eviction risks, Covid holds potential to change aspects of our real estate market: lower interest rates spurring sales of high-end properties, reduced demand for office space as workers telecommute, lower property tax revenue, increased speculative investment.
Notwithstanding these serious challenges and uncertainties, the county has moved forward on its Missing Middle Housing initiative -- releasing five Research Compendium bulletins. The drafters of these bulletins held a virtual briefing and fielded questions from the public on September 2. We expect the county board will approve a final Scope of Work, Charge, and Timeline for the Missing Middle Study at a work session on September 22. We also expect the board will not establish a community working group, even though up-zoning is a major and irreversible shift from the 40-year policy to limit high-density development to our Metro corridors.
While no jurisdiction in the U.S. has shown that Missing Middle will produce an affordable housing supply or help spur/maintain a population of diverse races, ethnic groups, age groups or incomes -- the county has cloaked its development zeal in socially-redeeming language about affordability and equity. The research bulletins highlight development policies that have displaced lower- or fixed-income earners from our midst, but fail to mention that these policies originated mainly from boards of the past 20 years. 20 years ago, a median-income household could afford to live in all but a half-dozen of our neighborhoods, and older buildings still offered many market-priced options for lower-income groups. This is no longer the case, thanks to multiple policies since the 1990's that drove up the price of land. And thanks to the widening income gap between the highest-income and lowest-income groups among our residents.
ASF is addressing substantive issues relating to the Missing Middle studies and will press for an informed public process. We urge you to review key documents -- including our August 12 article written for Arlington Civic Association newsletters and an in-depth report that debunks widespread claims of MM affordability. These documents, as well as several key documents produced by the county, are also compiled on our Missing Middle page (link below).
Share your views with the board (email@example.com) and help ensure a credible citizen engagement process.