Missing Middle

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"SOLD OUT: Missing Middle Town Halls with Board Members, Sept. 23 - Oct. 25" ... and then something about write the Board to complain
Weigh in Now to Oppose the "Missing Middle Vision" That Will Unravel  the County's 47-Year Compact with Residents to Limit Density in Residential Areas - Board Action is Planned for November

p for "SOLD OUT: Missing Middle Town Halls with Board Members, Sept. 23 - Oct. 25" ... and then something about write the Board to complain
 

On April 28, 2022, Arlington County staff released its Missing Middle Housing Study (MMHS) Phase Two report (an effort that was launched December 2019) recommending the County Board approve a countywide change from single to multi-family zoning, allowing up to 8-plexes in all residential areas where they aree not now allowed.  This move accelerates population growth that was already projected to add 66,000 people from 2018 to 2040.  The Missing Middle (MM) report glosses over major impacts and projects only minimal population increase (1500 over ten years, but ASF believes the market likely will exceed these projections).  Incredibly, the county is ruling out new spending or any plans for more infrastructure, including schools or stormwater projects; even the Joint Facilities Advisory Committee is concerned that density is outpacing our ability to finance new infrastructure. By raising the potential yield on most single-family lots, the MM effort will stimulate teardowns, lot consolidations, and more speculative investment that makes Arlington unaffordable.  The county implies new MM units will increase Arlington's diversity, even though Arlington households earning less than $108,000/year will be shut out. 

Staff briefed the County Board on the Phase Two proposals at a July 12 Work Session (YouTube video here and staff slide deck -- an updated version of the April 28 draft -- is here.)  Despite mostly negative feedback from residents, the Board launched Phase 3 of the study and staff is now drafting new ordinances for 8-plex zoning.  At the Board's direction, staff will explore ways to mitigate the initial plan's massive reduction of onsite parking.  They will consider reducing the maximum number of units to less than 8-plexes, offer options to impose maximum MM infill caps by area, and compare by-right vs. special use permitting as ways to address community concerns.  An ASF summary of the meeting is available here.

In November, the Board will vote whether to publicly advertise the plans produced in Phase 3.   Although the Board and county manager stated clearly that they would not be pursuing a full elimination of single-family areas of the county, this is precisely where we are now.  This is the largest change since the arrival of Metro and will vault Arlington to the head of local jurisdictions who are embracing "full urban" growth models.  A final Board vote will occur on December 17; any changes must be effected before then. 

The Board has promised a dozen "public engagements"; ASF believes most Board members have made up their minds, but recommends strong/persistent public inputs, with direct emails to Board members, to express your concerns.

Although County  Attorney Corr told the Board on July 12 that Missing Middle zoning could be "rolled back" at a later date, ASF believes that Missing Middle up-zoning  -- like all recent policies to allow more intense land use in Arlington -- is irreversible.  Local jurisdictions have full authority over their zoning code, but have often been unable to "roll back" zoning or other land use policies as they are found to have caused a loss of potential development value. 

 

Arlington leaders need to ensure growth is sustainable -- and address ASF concerns.  See more info at the quick links below.  Weigh in if you oppose:

  • displacing current populations (minorities, seniors),

  • lowering tree canopy coverage in single family areas from 20% to 10 or 15%,

  • or pushing land prices and taxes up in ways that will hit many pocketbooks. 

 

Further Actions:

 

If you are worried about negative impacts of extreme infill,  write to countyboard@arlingtonva.us AS SOON AS POSSIBLE, to ask they:

  1. Fully reveal population growth that is allowed by maximum buildout to multifamily housing in R-5 through R-20 zones

  2. "Assess and confess" the fiscal, environmental and displacement impacts of the proposed 8-plex vs. current land use and zoning;

  3. Consider measures that are not irreversible nor as inflexible as zoning tools to address housing needs;

  • Further Actions:

  • Sign this petition sponsored by Arlingtonians Opposed to Upzoning!

  • Email ASF to volunteer for direct action (in person) or for a yard sign! ASF.virginia@gmail.

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​​Key Links:

ASF MM Links:

Arlington County MMHS Phase Two Links:

Civic Groups/Arlington Non-Profit/Arlington Resident Inputs on MMHS Phase Two

Other Resources on Upzoning in Arlington and Beyond

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The Phase 2 Missing Middle report projects up-zoning for all single-family areas that do not already permit it, from duplexes up to 8-plexes, and assumes the largest of these will be limited to the largest lots (however, there appear to be no guards against lot consolidation in smaller-lot areas, which would change that dynamic).  Essentially, the county is dispensing with the commitment it made when embarking on Metro construction in 1979 that it would preserve single-family areas as a counterbalance to the extreme density that the Metro corridors would provide.  Extreme density will become the new default.  While builders will still be able to construct single-family homes, the only check on 100% urbanizaton is whether our labor market will continue to support rapid expansions of luxury high-end housing.    

The Phase 2 report acknowledges but dodges key concerns of ASF, i.e. gentrification, inadequate budgeting for new infrastructure, and the loss of mature trees and pervious surface (safeguards against flooding and urban heat islands).  While county staff projects only 20 Missing Middle "teardowns" per year of single family homes (on top of teardowns already occurring for large single-family homes), ASF counters that:

 

-- the increased yield will accelerate sales by residents who want to realize greater profit or who cannot afford higher taxes that will come with those new assessments;

-- this in turn increases the likelihood of lot consolidations, that will allow EVEN greater lot coverage for single family homes if built, and make it more likely that the Missing Middle six-plexes and 8-plexes will begin to fill in former single family areas;

-- the increased yield from existing residential lots as their development potential rises will drive out existing residents who fall below the median income of $108,00 projected for these new units. 

Added density delivers the most value to the developer/current owner and to those who develop the landIt makes things more difficult for everyone else.  Current property owners will profit, but those on fixed incomes will find higher taxes a challenge.  Renters will suffer.  New MM home mortgages, as evidenced by units currently being built where zoning allows, are affordable to average white household incomes, but exceed average household incomes for African-Americans, Latinos, seniors, new immigrants, the disabled.  Local supporters of MM in Arlington are essentially acceding to the "voluntary displacement" of many current residents -- to accommodate wealthier in-migrants.  This is precisely the effect of such up-zoning predicted by UCLA Professor Michael Storper

If public funds for truly affordable housing (households at 60% of area median income (AMI) and below) do not keep pace with up-zoning inflation, the circle of displacement widens.  MM quadplexes under construction in Arlington are selling in the $800,000's, and have not promoted diversity.  Noted local economists at Arlington Analytics produced a June 2020 analysis of new duplexes showing they would be affordable in only a handful of areas, even to households earning $120,000/year (100% of AMI).  ASF also questions the "major housing crisis for mid-level earners" battle cry that has accompanied Arlington's MM campaign.  Zillow in January 2021 showed 335 homes/townhomes for sale in Arlington under $800,000 out of 536 total units, showing relatively robust supply.  The Missing Middle effort -- like an October 2020 failed effort to change affordable homeownership programs -- seems to favor higher income households at the expense of lower income groupsASF believes the County is subordinating true equity as part of a larger focus on helping middle-class newcomers (who have been white and Asian).  It may offer some element of diversity but it will displace many Arlingtonians who are not keeping pace with rising incomes (African-Americans, Latnos, seniors, immigrants who already live here).

ASF is concerned that the county's MM plans, as with its other development plans -- including extensive new density along Langston Boulevard, is untethered from fiscal reality.  See the January 2021 ARLNow article by Peter Rousselot (ASF member) for more information on the tax implications of growth. Arlington in 2018 committed to the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments that it would add residents equal to the combined populations of Charlottesville and Culpeper, approximately 65,000.  But five years on, the County has not budgeted for any added facilities such as schools or parks for these new residents.  In February 2022, the County Board approved a new sector plan for Pentagon City that will add 12,000 new residents to the 8,000 now living in that area over the next 40 years -- almost equal to the entire population of Falls Church -- without budgeting funds or public space to add adequate infrastructure. The County says it also won't need to budget for infrastructure or public services as it looks at densifying the Langston Boulevard Corridor.  And, no surprise, the April 28 Missing Middle study and corresponding analysis projects no new schools or facilities are needed despite up-zoning all remaining single-family areas that do  allow new multifamily projects currently.  The claim is not credible.

July 12 is just around the corner, most residents are still unaware of the looming change.  County staff has indicated it is not providing further community outreach.  Please write to the county board, sign up to speak at the May 14 board meeting, speak to a board member at Open Door Mondays, and ask ASF for a briefing.  Request a delay in new zoning and meaningful analysis of the new zoning's costs and benefits, especially demographic, environmental, and fiscal. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Additional Resources:

Arlington County Documents/Resources

ASF Documents

Third-Party Documents

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BEFORE: Two homes, owned by African American Arlingtonians on a treed lot in the historic Green Valley neighborhood

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AFTER: Eight townhomes, each priced at $850K, in the new "Towns of 24th" development violate budgetary, environmental, and diversity principles

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Ballston Row townhouse list price $1.1 Million, July 2020 Photo: Gary Anthes

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Photo: Gary Anthes

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Common Arlington cottage being torn down, along with with surrounding mature trees, to build a McMansion

house on 600sf lot

Single family home on tiny 1500 square foot lot sold in 2020 for $440,000. Zero yard. Missing Middle taken to the extreme?

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Newly built duplex in Halls Hill — a traditionally African American neighborhood — sold for $1.1 Million per unit

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Foxcroft Heights neighborhood — the last remaining area of the Freedman's Village — affordable homes give way to high-priced replacements

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Lyon Park Auxiliary Dwelling Unit (ADU) adjacent to a single family home provides a source of rental income for homeowners.

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Falls Church Railroad Cottages "affordable" units cost $700,000+

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Falls Church RR cottages - Missing Middle exemplar. City kept budget costs down by only allowing seniors (no school spending)

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Falls Church Railroad Cottages MM were developed in 2016 on land owned and inhabited by African-American families and businesses since just after the Civil War