Show your support for Missing Middle housing in Arlington this weekend

Look at this lil cutie duplex in Ballston! by Google Street View used with permission.

Earlier this month, about 20 people joined us in Arlington along with our friends at the Coalition for Smarter Growth, Sustainable Mobility for Arlington County, the Washington Area Bicyclist Association, and YIMBYs of Northern Virginia for office hours! We had such a great time that no one remembered to take a picture. And that’s okay, because you’ve got another chance to talk about housing issues in Arlington this Saturday.

That’s right: I’m talking about the public hearing where the Arlington County Board will take feedback on its proposed “missing middle” zoning changes, which would allow duplexes, townhomes, and small apartment buildings in a vast swath of the county where today you can only build a single-family house. Over the past two years, the Missing Middle Housing Study has looked at ways Virginia’s smallest county can address its housing shortage, especially for more affordable homes in a place where the median home price is nearly one million dollars.

You can sign up now to speak at the hearing on 9 am Saturday on the proposed Missing Middle zoning amendment, which would allow up to six homes on a lot, and provide standards like where specific housing types should go, how big they should be, if new homes should be required to have parking, and where the front door should go. County planners have included a bunch of options for the new zoning, making this a sort of Choose Your Own Adventure for the development approval process.

I’ll be there delivering our testimony, which basically asks the County Board to pick options that make it easiest to build smaller, more affordable homes, and create a process that’s easy for everyone to follow and understand – which ultimately means more homes can get built. You can scroll down to read that, but first: Here’s how to sign up to testify, either in person or virtually. It’ll ask you which item you’d like to testify on, so put down #33 for Missing Middle. See you there?

Dear Chair Cristol and Members of the Arlington County Board:

My name is Dan Reed and I serve as the Regional Policy Director for Greater Greater Washington, a nonprofit that works to advance racial, economic, and environmental justice in land use, transportation, and housing throughout Greater Washington. GGWash supports the proposed Missing Middle Zoning Ordinance and General Land Use Plan amendments, along with specific options described below.

First, we commend Arlington County for showing leadership on this crucial issue. We have a regional housing shortage, with a recent study from Up For Growth showing we are short 156,000 homes of what we need to accommodate our current and future population. The Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments has noted that as a region we need to produce 32,000 new homes each year to catch up.

Without this needed housing supply, we’ve seen dramatic increases in home prices and rents, and Arlington County is no different. Inevitably, the burden of rising costs falls hardest on the least advantaged members of this community: young people starting out, seniors on fixed income, people of color, immigrants, and queer and trans people. People who grew up here and want to stay, or who moved here and want to put down roots. Like many jurisdictions in the DC area, Arlington risks losing them and the potential for decades of valuable contributions to this county.

This Missing Middle legislation isn’t the only solution, but it’s a crucial part of the solution: making it easier to build more homes, of all kinds, in all price ranges. More homes mean that more people, regardless of their needs or preferences, can find housing options that meet those needs or preferences without having to leave the county and the things that make life great: access to friends and family, good schools, economic opportunities, health care, leisure activities, and so on. The proposed Zoning Ordinance and General Land Use Plan amendments would be a regional best practice – if not a national best practice – for encouraging the construction of small, attainably priced infill housing.

Greater Greater Washington urges the County Board to craft a policy that maximizes the production of smaller, more affordable homes; encourages high-quality design without creating new barriers to approval; and creates a predictable and easy to follow development process for builders, property owners, and neighbors alike. Having reviewed the many options provided by planning staff, we generally recommend the more expansive recommendations, including:

As we wrote in July, we’re excited to see Arlington County embracing missing middle housing, and hope that this legislation can be an example for other jurisdictions in the DC region. Thank you for your consideration, and we look forward to working with you to make Arlington a place that more people can call home.

Dan Reed
Regional Policy Director
Greater Greater Washington