Planning Board Briefed on Missing Middle Housing Study and Potential of Creating Alternative Housing Types to Meet Market Demands

September 21, 2018

Study explains advantages of uncommon housing types and why they should be revived in specific areas of the county

SILVER SPRING, MD – The Montgomery County Planning Department, part of The Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission, presented the Missing Middle Housing Study to the Planning Board on Thursday, September 20, 2018. This research report discusses the types of dwellings – bungalow courts, duplexes, fourplexes, small townhouses and others — that were common in the United States during the first half of the 20th Century but have largely disappeared from development over the past 70 years. Missing Middle housing provides moderate density housing options that exist, in size, between detached, single-family homes and mid-rise to high-rise apartment buildings.

The study builds a case for reviving Missing Middle housing types, which could help address the county’s housing needs and provide more options for first-time homebuyers, single-parent households, empty nesters and others seeking smaller and affordable alternatives to conventional homes and apartments.

“It’s clear from the study that, currently, the smaller developers who could create most of the Missing Middle housing types are finding it difficult to do that here,” says Paul Mortensen, a senior urban designer in the Planning Director’s office, who co-authored the report. “The study indicates ways we can streamline the development process for these housing types because the needs of the county are changing and there is a huge market demand for this type of adaptable housing.”

The study examines the current challenges to building Missing Middle housing, including use-separated zoning, development standards and review, building codes and economic impediments. This analysis was informed by focus groups of local real estate developers held in February and March 2018.

The report concludes with several ideas for further exploration to facilitate the creation of Missing Middle housing in Montgomery County:

  • Amend the county’s zoning code to create a Missing Middle Optional Method of Development with clear locational criteria and design standards, including site plan review.
  • Evaluate the ability to use floating zones to create Missing Middle housing. The Zoning Ordinance defines a floating zone as a flexible zone that is to be used for a designated purpose, but whose location is to be determined in the future as part of a Local Map Amendment. Options include modifying floating zones in specific locations or creating a Missing Middle Floating Zone.
  • Encourage rezoning to Commercial Residential Neighborhood (CRN), which is more accepting of Missing Middle housing typologies, in appropriate areas of the county through the master planning process.
  • Consider developing a countywide Missing Middle Housing Functional Master Plan that would identify the ideal locations for Missing Middle housing typologies and be implemented through rezoning of appropriate areas to allow these housing types.
  • Issue a request for proposals (RFP) or conduct a developer/architect competition to design and construct Missing Middle housing typologies on a county-owned site. This pilot project can then be used to promote the development of Missing Middle housing as a viable alternative throughout the county.
  • Create a Montgomery Planning staff/consultant working group that can evaluate and suggest potential financial incentives, such as tax credit programs and fee waivers, that encourage Missing Middle housing.

For more information, contact Paul Mortensen at paul.mortensen@montgomeryplanning.org or tel. 301-495-4523.