Missing Middle Housing (MMH) has been in the local lexicon since the City of Asheville first put the Missing Middle Housing Study on its agenda back in 2022. Conducted by the Department of Planning and Urban Design and the Department of Community and Economic Development, the study is meant to identify housing barriers in the City’s regulations and policies and to make recommendations for improvement.
That’s put in pretty simple terms, but the process has involved six months of research, testing, and calls for public input. Remember the workshops or the renters’ survey back in the summer? Well, this is where they reach the first stage of fruition — with the release of the 155-page draft recommendations.
Before we dive into what the study is suggesting, let’s review the definition (after all, we haven’t discussed it since August).
Daniel Parolek, founder of Opticos Design, a consultancy firm that’s working with the City, coined the term Missing Middle Housing in 2010. It describes building types that are in the middle of a spectrum between detached single-family homes + mid- and high-rise apartment buildings — like duplexes, townhouses, and courtyard buildings. They’re typically three stories or less, with multiple units and in walkable neighborhoods. These types of houses do still exist, but they’re called “missing” because the housing models were abandoned and, in some cases, illegal for about 70 years due to zoning regulations.
The findings + recommendations
The study found that there are several MMH-ready areas in Asheville — defined as the areas surrounding walkable centers with access to schools, recreation, shopping, services, transit, food, and employment — like downtown and the area around the Haywood Road and Brevard Road intersection. But current regulations encourage single-family homes significantly more than MMH. Development standards like density maximum (the number of residential units allowed) and minimum lot width prevent many types of MMH, and the City’s parking space requirements prevent all types.
To address the barriers, there are 12 policy recommendations and 22 zoning recommendations. The policy recommendations include reinforcing walkable environments and ensuring that MMH development standards are easy + clear. Zoning recommendations include reducing parking space requirements and limiting the square footage of single-family homes to incentivize MMH. Nine implementation recommendations address ideas like supporting small-scale developers and creating cost incentives for developing MMH.
The study also acknowledges a risk of residents’ displacement with the implementation of MMH, so it includes anti-displacement strategies like streamlining the process for affordable housing approval and establishing home repair assistance + housing trust funds.
The next steps + chance for input
Okay, that’s a lot to digest — and we only covered a small part of it. But even though the study has a final draft, this isn’t the end of the road. On Monday, Dec. 11, the draft will be presented to the Planning and Economic Development Committee and then will be reviewed by the City Council on Tuesday, Jan. 9.
Although sometimes held virtually, meetings are open to the public, and there are several ways that you can offer your feedback. Pre-submitted voicemail and written comments are accepted until 5 p.m. the day before the meeting, and there will be time for live public comment (if the meeting is virtual, you’ll join the comment queue via a phone number on the Committee’s website).
You can also register for one of the two virtual information sessions on either Tuesday, Dec. 5 or Thursday, Dec. 14.
The study encourages continuing engagement with the community, so this very likely won’t be the last time you can give input. Subscribe to get updates on the study and make sure you stay in the know.