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How does “Missing Middle Housing” affect the housing crisis?

by KIKI MILLER/Guest Contributor
| June 16, 2024 1:00 AM

In a recent presentation by the National Home Builders Association at a summit hosted by the North Idaho Building Contractors it was predicted that as a country, we need to build two million homes in the next few years in order to address the nationwide housing crisis and shortage. This deficit in the American economy has been recognized by all industry sectors and for the first time was a component in the presidential State of the Union address. The numbers are real and translate to a dramatic effect on the local economy as well.

The housing shortage doesn’t mean just single-family homes on city lots. It encompasses all types of housing and price ranges. Missing Middle Housing is defined as a “lack of medium-density housing in North America, which was a result of a phenomenon that favored car-dependent urban sprawl planning and building.”

The result of ignoring medium-density structures and walkable neighborhoods spurred the housing shortage. Starter homes we recognize from the 1950s and 60s that are typically 1,200-square-foot, two-bedroom, one-bath homes, have their place in the market. But townhomes, condominiums, cottage home courts, row houses and multiplexes have an important role to play as well. These types may utilize existing land more efficiently while creating entry-level and lower-cost living units for local workers. They are critical to the future growth plans for the viability of our communities. 

The zoning language that can encourage this type of housing, in the proper locations, that preserve existing neighborhood characteristics while adding housing inventory, is in need of careful review before the opportunities are lost due to development of existing land. Amassing apartment complexes can provide shelter, but creating opportunity for home ownership with medium density creates opportunity, stability and economic advantages for those who need to live where they work. 

Ongoing discussions are occurring about how to incorporate “Missing Middle Housing” into current comprehensive plan discussions, zone change requests and project reviews. When the opportunity presents itself, citizens need to get involved and understand the vital impact reviewing potential changes in ability to provide these housing types can have on our communities’ future.

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Kiki Miller is a Coeur d’Alene City Council member and founding member of the Housing Solutions Partnership