The term “Missing Middle Housing” refers to housing that is naturally more affordable because of its density, yet blends in well with traditional single-family neighborhoods. With typical densities of 16-30 units per acre, Missing Middle Housing includes duplexes, four-plexes, courtyard apartments, live-work spaces, townhomes, and Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs). Also included are “mansion homes” where single-family homes are re-envisioned to include multiple units.

Illustration created by Opticos Design: Missing Middle housing, sometimes called Opportunity Housing, provides gentle density that blends well with existing neighborhoods. Since these units are smaller or afford economies of scale, they tend to be naturally affordable to moderate-income families.

These homes can help expand housing choices available to families with moderate incomes -those whose incomes are too high to qualify for traditional affordable housing, but too low to pay average market-rate rents without exceeding 30% of their incomes. As one of many symptoms of our regional housing crisis, families that once were considered middle income, sometimes making six-figure incomes, find themselves challenged to find decent, safe, and affordable housing. This is having a profound effect on normally stable middle-income households and threatens the underpinnings of the local economy and critical services. Because the need is great, a range of solutions — from changing the way we think about traditional residential neighborhoods to creative approaches to lower the costs of development — are gaining traction.

When the existing housing opportunities affordable to “missing middle” households fall short, employers have difficulty attracting and retaining even relatively well paid workers, and many families are forced to leave the region, and even the State, for areas with lower housing costs. The resulting instability of the local workforce and the increased traffic due to longer commutes into the County, pose economic and environmental problems for the entire region.

Missing middle housing types increase density while blending in with existing single-family neighborhoods. There are a range of strategies for developing housing that is naturally affordable within the private market (often referred to as Naturally Occurring Affordable Housing, or NOAH). It is almost always faster and less expensive to build missing middle income housing types than high density multifamily housing, as development tends to be only 2-3 stories at maximum which allows for traditional wood frame construction and can rely on existing city infrastructure, decreasing expensive site development costs.

The demand for smaller units nationwide “exceeds supply by up to 35 million units” ( Yet, many jurisdictions have outdated building and development codes or restrictive single-family residential zoning that make construction of smaller units more challenging.

Modest density housing types are not new, but housing of this type has not been developed at a significant rate in California for many decades. In cities like San Jose, where over 90% of all residential land is zoned exclusively for single-family homes, there is a real opportunity to both expand housing availability and create more affordable options for a diverse workforce.

Learn More in our Missing Middle White Paper.

SV@Home’s Position: We Need Creative Solutions to Increase Affordable Housing

SV@Home is working to promote policies and programs that facilitate the development of Missing Middle Housing. This includes:

  • Supporting efforts that use limited land more efficiently, including home sharing, co-housing models for young workers, people with disabilities and seniors, and reenvisioning single-family homes.
  • Supporting efforts that leverage opportunities for middle income homes in large scale development.
  • Supporting actions that allow for heightened modest size home development, including micro units, and the development of multi-unit housing in place of traditional single-family development.
  • Advocating for progressive policies and streamlined processing that increase the flexibility and effectiveness of local ADU ordinances. SV@Home holds that, while jurisdictions are required to follow the law regarding ADU development, there are additional policy actions that can drastically increase the number of ADU homes created.
  • Advocating for flexible funding mechanisms that support missing middle housing development.

Learn More in our Missing Middle White Paper.

Additional Resources

Photo: 18th + Arkansas/g2 Lofts, David Baker Architects