Was Missing Middle a Done Deal?

Was Missing Middle a Done Deal?

Most feedback was negative.

In 2019 Arlington County began a process to address shortfalls in housing supply, fewer options in housing types and rising housing costs and the underlying racism surrounding single-family housing. The County announced that it was starting from a blank slate with no proposed policy or zoning changes. A staff report to the County board in December of that year emphasized that neither an-across-the-board rezoning, nor an elimination of single-family zoning would be the right fit for Arlington. “Solutions will need to be context-sensitive — not a one-size-fits all approach.”

Now the County Board has adopted a proposal that does mandate an across-the-board approach by opening up portions of the county that currently allow only single detached homes to multi-unit development. Currently 70 percent of Arlington is zoned for single-family housing.

Proponents say this new policy will reverse the 90-year-old governmental zoning action that perpetuates racism with Arlington’s single-family zoning. The YIMBYs (Yes In My Backdoor) herald the plan as helping low-and moderate income residents. YIMBYs state this Missing Middle Housing plan will allow low-income retail and service workers to live near their jobs and will shorten the commute of school teachers who will be able to live in the County where they teach. 

YIMBY is a national organization started in northern California in 2013 with an Arlington chapter whose purpose is to enact policies that promote more housing affordability and prevent displacement, especially for marginalized and low-income residents. 

Proponents also point out the study began in 2019 and a draft framework was released with multiple engagement opportunities. “In addition, the proposal was reviewed by the Planning Commission, Housing Commission, Transportation Commission, Disability Advisory Commission and Commission on Aging.” They say the opponents are older white people who don’t want their status quo disturbed. 

Opponents say the proposal ignores the majority of Arlington residents who signed petitions, appeared at County Board meetings and argued at community conversations. 

The purchase of a unit in a six-plex would require an annual income of $193,000 a year, and 72 percent of the residents who earn that amount are white. 

Opponents add the plan won’t allow Arlington to open up housing opportunities for firefighters and teachers who earn on average $62,198 for a teacher and $70,118 for a firefighter. 

One opponent says that missing middle housing was a done deal from the beginning. “They just had to go through the required procedural hoops.” 

The Arlington County press release states there have been years of study, thousands of emails and community conversations in the last three years about missing middle. “However, they don’t inform you the community input was heavily negative and the final proposal has ignored most of the community input.” See a summary of feedback here https://www.arlingtonva.us/files/sharedassets/public/housing/documents/missing-middle/cb-work-session-mmhs-phase-2-2022-07-12.pdf