The “Missing Middle” Affordable Housing Solution

Karen Parolek discusses the 'Missing Middle' that is too often overlooked in discussions about affordable housing.

The lack of affordable housing is an increasing problem in many places—particularly those that are walkable and have transit service. The demand for walkable places continues to increase, but too much of what our zoning allows and what the market has traditionally built is sprawl. This has created a classic supply/demand issue, where the demand for housing in our cities and walkable neighborhoods is high but supply is low, leading to rising prices, gentrification, and housing crises across the country.

It’s one thing when the economic theory of supply and demand affects the prices of our consumer goods, but it’s particularly problematic when it affects our basic need for a home.

Solutions to the affordability crisis lie on a spectrum. At one end, an increase in subsidized housing can help those with lower incomes. At the other end, an increase in housing of all kinds in walkable places can help alleviate the rising prices due to high demand for low supply. However, as I wrote about previously, one potential problem with this latter solution is that most developers and cities are building new housing for city living, but few, if any, are building housing for neighborhood living. Missing Middle Housing provides a critical middle solution: affordable-by-design workforce housing that helps meet the demand for walkable neighborhood living.