Too many communities lack a range of multi-unit or clustered housing types. These missing middle homes are compatible in scale with single-family homes, and help meet the growing demand for walkable urban living, respond to shifting household demographics, and meet the need for more housing choices at different price points.
These housing types are considered “missing” because, even though they have historically played an instrumental role in providing housing choices and affordable options, very few of these housing types have been built in the past 30 to 40 years.
The term “middle” has two interpretations. The first, and most important, represents the middle scale of buildings between single-family homes and large apartment or condo buildings. The second relates to the affordability or attainability level. These types have historically delivered attainable housing choices to middle-income families without subsidies and continue to play a role in providing homes to the “middle income” market segment that typically straddles 60% to 110% AMI, in new construction, for-sale housing. This varies across different markets (
with broader legalization of -plexes—from duplexes to fourplexes—throughout California could mean millions of additional homes that are close to where people want to work and play, dramatically reducing GHG emissions—something we need to do to meet the State’s climate goals.
In addition, building missing middle homes in cities would decrease wildfire risk. Fire science shows that medium-density development in the Wildland Urban Interface presents the highest risk of loss of lives and homes to wildfire (read more in the
section). The arrangement of homes in subdivisions and rural communities in fire-prone landscapes is increasingly not viable. Placing missing middle homes in cities and towns near services, jobs, and transit reduces wildfire risk. This does not, however, negate the risk of evacuation during a wildfire. Cities are grappling with how to add the needed housing while keeping existing and future residents safe. It is essential to consider evacuation routes when building or deciding where to zone additional housing.
CRITICAL ACTION TO TAKE NOW
Advance zoning and implementation changes that encourage sustainable, small, and mid-sized multi-family and workforce housing, especially in lower density in non-Fire Hazard Severity Zones. Expand form-based zoning to increase multi-family housing in low-density neighborhoods near transit, jobs, services, parks, high quality schools, and other amenities. Increase heights and remove restrictions on density in non-Fire Hazard Severity Zones where existing or new high-capacity transit is planned to encourage housing and the creation of mixed-use corridors.
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