Tuesday, February 1, 2022

Is single-family district reform missing the mark on missing middle housing?

There are a lot of news stories out there reporting on the first implementations of single-family zoning retrofits but this one got me in particular.  Olympia, Washington essentially rezoned all single-family districts not just for duplexes, but fourplexes.  The result was--well--nothing happened.  Essentially, the city permitted the exact same number of missing middle units--just 24 in a modestly-sized city--as they had in years before the zoning change.  

This, and other stories (especially this Terner Center report) emerging about the effects of single-family zoning reform, make me dubious that this change will yield significant new housing.  The economics and logistics for the real estate developer just don't seem to be there to me (I'd love for someone to prove me wrong on that).

My personal penchant would be to prioritize redevelopment of retail corridors, which is getting some attention, but not enough.  Retail is undervalued (read: cheap), built into the fabric of communities (read: strip malls), the retail use can be preserved while providing housing on top, and running both transportation and infrastructure is cheaper along established arterials than distributing it through SFDs.  The only big proponent of corridors for housing right now seems to be Peter Calthorpe.  I wish others would pay more attention to him.

The story on Olympia is here:  https://www.theolympian.com/news/local/article257068052.html


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