Missing Middle

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What you can do:

  • Write to countyboard@arlingtonva.us as soon as possible, to ask they:

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

    • Study and disclose to the public all fiscal, environmental and displacement impacts of the proposed 8-plex vs. current land use and zoning;

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

  • Sign this petition sponsored by Arlingtonians Opposed to Upzoning;

  • Email ASF to volunteer for direct action or for a yard sign.

Missing Middle Substance and Process Flaws

About Missing Middle Housing

 

On April 28, 2022, Arlington County staff released its Missing Middle Housing Study (MMHS) Phase Two report, allowing up to 8-plexes in all single-family residential areas and reducing on-site parking for the new units.  Missing Middle adds to a commitment made in 2018 to accommodate 63,000 more residents - with current zoning -- by 2040.  Similar up-zoning near Seattle (in Ballard, Washington) has produced fairly rapid infill of multi-plex units for tech sector growth. Arlington's Missing Middle (MM) effort -- like its 2018 commimment -- discounts the need for new infrastructure, including schools, transit, or major stormwater facilities.  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 and existing Missing Middle zoning where it is already allowed has displaced large numbers of residents.  County claims that MM housing will add more "family-sized" units also come up short; an ASF FOIA request revealed  a net loss of nine 3-bedroom units per year.  A full list of expected outcomes is just below key links on this page.

By mid-November 2022 we expect the draft MM ordinances will be unveiled:  there may be options to limit the maximum density to four-plexes; cap the number of annual MM teardowns; limit small lots to duplexes; and increase on-site parking.  ASF believes the County Board will vote on December 17 to advertise some combination of new Missing Middle options.  Missing Middle will be the largest change since the arrival of Metro and cements Arlington's commitment to a "full urban" growth model, while offering none of the protections for low-income residents common in other urban jurisdictions.  A final Board vote will occur in January or February 2023.

Although the County Attorney indicated that Missing Middle zoning could be "rolled back," ASF believes that the new code would be irreversible or result in untenable monetary awards to those who might challenge such a rollback.

Arlington leaders need to ensure growth is sustainable -- and address ASF concerns (see below for more likely MM outcomes).  Weigh in if you oppose:

  • displacing current populations (minorities, seniors),

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

  • or increased tax burdens to pay for new services and infrastructure. 

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Missing Middle Reality - Arlington and Ballard, Washington

4341 n pershing (2)

New construciton is pricey! Ballston Row townhouse list price $1.1 Million, July 2020 Photo: Gary Anthes

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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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New duplex in Halls Hill — MM gentrifies former majority minority areas

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

Halls Hill large home next to older home black white Oct 2022

Large SF Home redeveloped next to older single-family in Halls Hill neighborhood Arlington, causing teardowns of homes affordable to diverse populations

Ballard redfin listing large multiplex from the air black white oct 2022

Large MM infill in single-family area, Ballard Washington

Ballard quadplex next to sf - black and white Oct 202

Ballard triplex next to older SF home - Missing Middle example

one story with multiplex in background ballard black and white oct 2022

one story single-family next to MM 6 plex in Ballard, Washington

small single fam next to multiplex ballard black white oct 2022

Older Single Family home in Ballard next to new MM multiplex

Key Links:

ASF MM Links:

Arlington County MMHS Phase Two Documents:

Third-Party Studies on Arlington and Other Upzoning Policies:

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Missing Middle Impacts:

 

The county projects only 20 Missing Middle "teardowns" per year (producing up to 108 new homes), in addition to approximately 120 teardowns for new single-family homes.  ASF believes however that the turnover will be greater, as we anticipate strong demand among higher-income households that Missing Middle caters to.  ASF also projects:

  1. Loss of affordable, older housing stock (replacing $750,000-800,000 single family homes with MM units that start at $415,000 for 700 ft2 units);

  2. Rise in land prices that will preclude true affordable housing solutions (e.g. co-ops, land trusts);

  3. Misplaced prioritization of public benefits (density) for households earning 118-273% of area median income, for whom the market can provide sufficient supply;

  4. Displacement of Arlington's minority and senior populations, whose median household incomes do not qualify them for new Missing Middle units.  Such loss can already be seen in areas where MM quadplexes have been built in Arlington, with units strarting at $800,000 (see photo gallery examples).  Displacement for in-migration has been  projected by UCLA Professor Michael Storper with blanket upzoning scenarios; ​

  5. Spreading teardowns to areas that have yet to experience them;

  6. 49% reduction of tree canopy for all new construction in these rezoned areas;

  7. Likely increase in impervious surface that drives flooding or requires very expensive mediation;

  8. Abandonment of transit-oriented development, with impacts of traffic, parking, pollution;

  9. A net loss of "family-sized housing" units (with 89% of MM being 1-2 BR units);

  10. Shift from 80% owner-occupied to approximately 80% rental properties, reducing opportunities for wealth creation;

  11. Diversion from other priorities, such as reducing lot coverage to address climate change and runoff from existing development;​

  12. Possible negative tax implications, see January 2021 ARLNow article by Peter Rousselot.

 

Additional Resources:

Arlington County Documents/Resources

 

ASF Documents

Third-Party Documents