Missing Middle Housing and How It Benefits Cities and Towns
From attracting talented professionals to lowering living costs and allowing for mixed-use development, missing middle housing addresses many issues and alleviates some pressing challenges facing cities and towns today.
Overall, missing middle housing encompasses a broad range of dwelling types. In general, these are buildings with multiple units located in easily walkable neighborhoods. For many cities, these can be workable solutions to existing residential neighborhoods. Moreover, they are affordable to low- and middle-income residents, addressing the housing crisis.
Keep reading to learn more about missing middle housing and how it benefits cities and their residents.
What Is Missing Middle Housing?
Broadly speaking, the missing middle is composed of diverse housing types that fall into the category between single family dwellings and larger apartment buildings with many units. Missing middle units are similar in scale to single-family homes, addressing space limitations. They include duplexes, multiplexes, cottage courts, and townhomes. These types of dwellings allow for urban areas that are less dense, more walkable, and offer more open spaces.
Why Is Missing Middle Housing Needed?
Currently, there is a growing gap between upcoming demographics and available housing options. If missing middle housing were built, it would offer an affordable alternative. Those who work in the city could purchase property, build equity-based wealth, and still live affordably.
In addition to greater affordability, missing middle housing also addresses housing demand. Since many aspiring homeowners are priced out of the market, they must keep renting for years. Likewise, the available options for low-priced housing tend to be farther away from urban centers with little access to public transportation. This mismatch between the demand and city-based options is substantial.
Moreover, smaller multi-unit dwellings support walkability and keep spending in the local economy. By creating housing options in urban spaces, consumers can utilize public transportation more effectively. Thus, residents would save on transportation expenses and build equity in their new homes.
Who Benefits the Most From Missing Middle Housing?
Those looking for moderate or lower-priced housing would benefit from missing middle housing.
These types of multi-unit housing use existing space more efficiently, reducing cost per square foot.
Additionally, many creative professionals are not interested in traditional living. As a result, they are willing to live with simplified or downsized amenities. For example, many are looking for a car-free lifestyle, which is impossible in the suburbs.
Empty-nesters looking to downsize after their children have left home can benefit from smaller space and reduced expenses. At the moment, these populations often do not have effective options available in cities and larger towns.
Missing middle housing options can help to ensure that low and moderate income residents of a city can find affordable housing and remain there where they are close to transportation, jobs and other benefits of urban living.
What is Norwalk Doing to Address Missing Middle Housing?
Norwalk is currently evaluating its accessory dwelling unit regulations to potentially allow more flexibility in how these units are developed. In addition, as part of the comprehensive rewrite of the zoning regulations, the City is considering freeing up certain portions of the smaller-lot, single-family zones, to allow for 2-family dwellings.
Norwalk, CT Merges Separate Planning & Zoning Commissions
The City of Norwalk is making improvements for the future by merging the city’s separate Zoning and Planning Commissions. It’s an opportunity to streamline decision making and provide better coordination between long-term planning and the codes enacted to realize the vision of the plans.
Keep reading to learn more about the merging of Norwalk’s Planning & Zoning Commission.
Recent CT State Land Use Planning Changes
A lot happened during the last year related to Land Use Planning in the State of CT. The Connecticut General Assembly presented more critical land use and statewide zoning proposals than they have in decades.
The bills that obtained approval from the House, Senate, and Governor’s office were scaled-back versions of these proposals. Still, they received much media attention, and for a good reason. They were important rulings that will affect our city.
Why the Change in Norwalk?
Some Connecticut towns have already combined their Planning and Zoning commissions. The new structure of Norwalk’s Planning & Zoning Commission supports an efficient and collaborative working relationship.
For instance, New Haven’s Planning commission has also combined the duties and responsibilities of P&Z. However, areas like Danbury and Stamford continue to run separate city Planning and Zoning commissions.
For some time, the City of Norwalk had also run separate Planning and Zoning commissions. The general agreement was that the separation resulted in a disconnect between planning, land use policy, and city zoning and created additional work for applicants to both commissions.
Benefits of the Planning & Zoning Commission Merger
Historically, a third or more of the Planning Commission’s workflow came from the Zoning Commission. This process often added one to two months to the approval process, hindering development in the city. Now, applicants will save considerable time and costs without the need to present requests to both commissions.
The union of the planning and zoning commissions also creates a more consistent planning relationship. It gives the Commission increased jurisdiction. That broadened authority enables them to support consistency with citywide planning.
What to Expect from Norwalk’s Unified P&Z Commission
In the past, the Planning Commission and Zoning Commission successfully executed their distinct functions. Together, P&Z can coordinate to promote greater efficiency and growth for the Norwalk economy. New members of the merged P&Z group have been selected.
Currently, the City is rewriting its zoning regulations, which is set to be completed later this year.. Other land use efforts underway in Norwalk, CT are a reassessment of its industrial zones and developing a plan for its urban waterfront areas.
You can stay updated on Norwalk Planning and Zoning Department news by visiting the official website.
The City of Norwalk welcomes your questions and feedback. Please feel free to contact us with your inquiries.