Press Club
Slide from Missing Middle Housing Study draft framework (via Arlington County)

A few weeks is not enough time for Arlington residents to provide informed commentary on a major local issue, according to the Arlington County Civic Federation.

The group is calling for the county to extend the public comment window for the Missing Middle Housing Study’s draft framework until Sept. 30, from the current deadline of Friday, May 27.

The framework calls for properties only zoned for single-family homes to also allow small-scale multifamily housing — from townhomes to 8-plexes, depending on lot size — provided the building is no larger than zoning currently allows for single-family homes.

That could allow more housing types and price points in Arlington, which will otherwise continue to see small homes torn down in favor of large single-family homes, the framework suggests. The study only expects a modest amount of new “missing middle” housing through the change — about 20 properties per year.

The Civic Federation, however, says that this is a major change no matter how many new duplexes, triplexes, etc. are expected to be built in what are now exclusively single-family home neighborhoods.

The federation passed the following resolution on Tuesday by a vote of 90% to 10%.

WHEREAS Arlington County has an established General Land Use Plan (GLUP) that allows for existing single-family residences and high-density, mixed-use development along the high-density, mixed-use corridors;

WHEREAS Arlington County’s Planning web page states, “Planning decisions are informed by extensive research, professional expertise and community input” and “relies on extensive community input. Individual residents can have a say on the decisions that affect their neighborhoods and the County as a whole”;

WHEREAS on April 28, Arlington County released its proposed Phase 2 Missing Middle Housing Framework document, which is the guiding framework that will facilitate the upzoning of these residential zoning districts — R-5, R-6, R-8, R-10, and R-20 — thus authorizing greater housing density in what are currently referred to as “single-family” neighborhoods countywide;

WHEREAS the impact of the Missing Middle Housing framework and its subsequent upzoning will impact not only housing density but also parking, public school enrollment, stormwater management and tree canopy preservation in residential neighborhoods countywide;

WHEREAS the deadline for public comment and feedback for the Missing Middle Housing framework is May 27, 2022, four (4) weeks from the framework’s release to the public;

WHEREAS this is a complex initiative, civic associations and other county organizations will require additional time to notify their own members, study the likely consequences of the upzoning, and develop a membership response in order to provide meaningful feedback to the county; and

WHEREAS four (4) civic associations — Arlington Forest, Boulevard Manor, Bluemont, and Glencarlyn, which represent more than 4,000 households in central Arlington — have already shared their concerns about the inadequacy of the four-week public feedback period for the proposed Phase 2 Missing Middle Housing Framework document;

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, the Arlington County Civic Federation (ACCF) asks the Arlington County Board to immediately request that the County Manager extend the public review period for the Missing Middle Phase 2 concept plan to September 30, 2022 — to make it possible for civic associations and other community organizations to have sufficient time to assist in disseminating Missing Middle Housing Framework materials to their own members, to meet with and pose questions to staff, to analyze and understand the potential impacts on their neighborhoods, and to provide meaningful feedback before the framework is finalized.

The four civic associations referenced in the resolution noted in an April 25 letter to county officials that “our community associations, like so many others, are inactive during June, July and August,” thus making it difficult to study the issue and engage residents before September.

On the other hand, Arlington has something of a reputation for dragging out its public input and analysis processes, leading 55% of respondents to a 2018 ARLnow poll to say that “elected officials should make quicker decisions based on a streamlined community input process.”

Do you agree with the Civic Federation that residents should be given a few more months to provide their feedback on the draft plan, prior to it being compiled and analyzed by county officials ahead of potential zoning ordinance amendments?

Or should the county just get on with it?

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Slide from Missing Middle Housing Study draft framework (via Arlington County)

(Updated at 4:30 p.m.) Some “missing middle” housing types would be legalized in residential zones throughout Arlington, under a draft proposal released late last week.

The framework is the latest output of the county’s Missing Middle Housing Study, which has been ongoing since October 2020. The study concluded that allowing housing that’s denser but no larger than single-family homes currently allowed under zoning would increase housing supply while diversifying housing types and providing a net environmental benefit.

The recommendations will now be subject to what is likely to be a contentious community engagement and feedback process, expected to be followed by County Board action to amend the local zoning ordinance this fall.

If ultimately approved, the new zoning rules would be similar to those that passed in Minneapolis and Portland to considerable fanfare and White House interest.

Specifically, the framework calls for dwellings with up to eight housing units in most of Arlington’s residential zones. The size of the structure would be subject to existing rules for single family homes, though existing requirements for on-site parking could be reduced.

The maximum number of units would scale down with the lot size, from a simple duplexes to townhomes and triplexes, up to an 8-plex on a relatively large lot.

“Missing Middle Housing (MMH) types with up to 8 dwellings can fit within the same footprint, placement, and height standards as single-detached housing,” said the proposal. “Applying single-detached standards to MMH can minimize or eliminate environmental impacts, compared to status quo redevelopment.”

That represents a significant change from Arlington’s current zoning, which restricts most of the non-federal land in the county to only single-family homes. A county spokeswoman noted that while the proposed zoning changes would increase flexibility for property owners seeking to build, it would not force owners to change anything if they don’t want to.

“The draft framework would add housing type options in the County’s zoning districts that currently only allow single-detached housing and accessory dwelling units,” said Erika Moore, spokeswoman for Arlington’s Department of Community Planning, Housing and Development. “It does not eliminate any housing options that currently exist.”

Also not changing: neighborhoods that currently allow duplexes and townhouses.

“Framework provides an opportunity to welcome potentially more neighbors within a similar building footprint,” said the presentation. “Neighborhoods that are predominantly duplexes and townhouses today (e.g., Arlington Mill, Green Valley, Penrose) and other mixed-use areas would not be impacted.”

Despite the big change, the study suggests that the actual impact on new housing would be modest.

“MMH has inherent economic disadvantages compared with large single-detached homes, including increased costs to build, increased complexity for ownership and sales, and lack of familiarity in the market,” said last week’s presentation. “Based on the financial feasibility and study of other jurisdictions, only approximately 20 lots per year would become ‘missing middle’ (94-108 units).”

That would work out to about 150 additional residents per year over the course of ten years.

While not affordable to lower income households, the new housing is expected to be affordable to more residents than what would be built under current single-family-only zoning, which the presentation says incentivizes construction of large, expensive homes.

“Expected outcome is a wider range of housing types at lower prices than what is currently available,” the study said. “New housing types would be attainable for households with incomes from $108,000-$200,000+. Housing designs would be of a scale consistent with single-household redevelopment already occurring.”

News of the framework was cheered online by those who have been advocating for denser housing in Arlington.

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The local NAACP is calling on the Arlington County Board to do more to encourage affordable homeownership opportunities for residents of color.

Although segregation officially ended last century, the Arlington branch of the NAACP says non-white residents are still effectively excluded from some neighborhoods due to county zoning codes, compounded by rising housing costs.

“The widespread single-family zoning scheme that prevents the construction of new housing in affluent, mostly white neighborhoods also worsens racial segregation by confining the construction of new affordable housing units to the Columbia Pike corridor and other parts of Arlington with large non-white populations,” the NAACP wrote in a letter to the county.

“People of color wishing to live in Arlington deserve meaningful opportunities to choose from a wide variety of housing types, in many parts of the county, at a reasonable cost,” the letter continues.

The NAACP says the county needs to adopt a comprehensive strategy to reform the county’s zoning laws and housing policies. It suggests reforms that go beyond those being considered in the Missing Middle Housing Study.

“We support the County’s many studies and other initiatives to promote affordable housing,” it concludes. “The best way to ensure the success of these initiatives is for the County Board and County Manager to show decisive leadership now and commit to supporting comprehensive zoning reform.”

Through Missing Middle, the county is considering whether and what kind of low-density multifamily housing could fit into single-family home neighborhoods. The county says allowing more housing types in these neighborhoods can reverse the lingering impacts of yesteryear’s racist zoning policies.

“The Missing Middle Housing Study has documented the role that Arlington’s land use and zoning policies have played in contributing to racial disparities in housing and access to opportunity,” says Erika Moore, a spokeswoman for the Department of Community Planning, Housing and Development. “Conducting the Missing Middle Housing Study is one of many deliberate choices the County is making to address the mistakes of the past and pave a new path for Arlington’s future.”

While supportive of the study, the NAACP suggests solutions beyond its parameters.

It recommends every redevelopment be assessed for whether it would perpetuate historical exclusion or displace the existing community. If so, developers would have to use a “displacement prevention and mitigation toolkit” to reverse those impacts.

This toolkit could include:

  • property tax deferrals for lower-income homeowners
  • funding for Community Land Trust acquisitions
  • preferences for first-generation homebuyers
  • stabilization funds for residents at risk of displacement

The toolkit would “address the unique needs of and the displacement risk experienced by the community in and around site-plan and by-right developments while also helping to address patterns of historical exclusion experienced by members of protected classes,” the letter says.

These and other tools should also receive county and state funding, like a quick-strike land acquisition account, which would be used to quickly purchase properties for affordable housing development, and targeted homeownership assistance programs, the NAACP says.

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Peter’s Take is a biweekly opinion column. The views expressed are solely the author’s.

On Nov. 16, County planning staff briefed the County Board on Phase I of the Missing Middle Housing Study.

Prior to the pandemic, County planners asserted that up-zoning to enable new Missing Middle (“MM”) housing would be a major contributor to ease Arlington’s affordable housing crisis.

But by the time Phase I was launched, the County had been forced by cascades of data to abandon this false claim.

Misappropriating the language of civil rights advocates, County planners’ latest rationale is that up-zoning to enable MM housing is necessary to provide diversity of building types in certain neighborhoods, noting for example that each of two new $900,000 duplexes is more “affordable” than a $1.6M single-family house that might otherwise occupy the same lot.

As a leader of Arlingtonians for Our Sustainable Future (ASF), I reject the notion that County planners’ preferences for more luxury buildings in certain neighborhoods deserves much weight compared to the preferences of the residents who live there now.

Prominent Arlington activist Suzanne Smith Sundburg points out that if more density were the key to affordable housing, more densely populated places like New York City would be more affordable than Arlington.

Arlington lacks adequate infrastructure and environmental plans for its current zoning

Arlington forecasts a total population of 301,200 in 2045 compared to 234,200 residents in 2021. These additional 67,000 residents are coming to Arlington under current zoning. Can Arlington’s infrastructure and environment sustain them?

For starters, where, exactly, are we going to put the new school facilities that will be required? In November 2019, the County Manager sent a letter to the acting APS superintendent offering County properties — including parks — to be turned into school properties. But those same parks are needed to support the park and recreational needs of these new residents. The Manager’s awkward overture reveals that the County has not planned adequately for either additional school capacity or additional parks.

Moreover, we regularly see water and sewage pipeline breaks in our old systems. Infrastructure problems are acute in many other areas, including flooding, power failures, building integrity, tree maintenance and protection, bridges and competition for parking spaces as population increases.

The County and APS have failed to adopt an internally consistent plan for all major public facilities, i.e., a Public Facilities Master Plan, despite the fact that six years have passed since the 2015 recommendation of the Community Facilities Study Group that such a Master Plan was critical to Arlington’s future. Many potential sites for important public facilities have been lost permanently to private development during those six years of dithering.

Generational transformation

Arlington County has not quantified the full costs of critical capital expenses that will have to be incurred as our population increases. In fact, the Manager told the County Board in his message of Nov. 12, 2020: “[G]iven that we are undergoing a generational transformation in how we provide services and use facilities, this is the wrong time” to support a proposal from the Joint Facilities Advisory Commission for long-range planning.

How then can this be the right time for an action like major MM up-zoning that could have a huge, irreversible, net-negative impact on Arlington’s future?

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For nearly one year, Arlington County has studied whether the zoning code should be rewritten to allow low-to-moderate density housing types like duplexes in more neighborhoods.

The initiative is dubbed the “Missing Middle Housing Study.” It refers to mid-sized housing types, such as duplexes, triplexes, quads and townhomes, which are denser than a single-family home but smaller than an apartment or condo building.

The county says adding homes in the “Missing Middle” could tackle a local housing shortage. Since its launch, the study has been debated in panels and County Board candidate forums and referenced in discussions about changing zoning ordinances that have hurt some duplex owners.

But something simple may be hindering public perception of the study: the name.

“Everybody assumes it has to do with affordability… and they hang their own viewpoints on that,” said Jim Lantelme, who chairs the Planning Commission.

Speaking on behalf of himself as a resident, Lantelme says a name change may help people disassociate “Missing Middle” and affordable housing, which are separate (but related) issues. He presented this idea to during a joint Planning Commission-County Board meeting last week.

“Missing Middle, for whatever reason, people have a negative reaction right off the bat,” he tells ARLnow. “Why go off a name that’s closing off minds, rather than one that encourages dialogue — one that people have an open mind toward? By renaming it, we might have a better dialogue without having to overcome misapprehensions.”

The county is primarily examining whether different forms of housing can blend into existing, single-family home neighborhoods. The goal is a greater variety and supply of housing, including units that are less expensive than single-family homes but not necessarily affordable to those making well below the area median income in the same way as dedicated affordable housing.

Whether “Missing Middle” housing can be purchased by people in different income brackets depends on size, location and market forces, says Elise Cleva, a spokeswoman for the Department of Community Planning, Housing and Development.

To uncouple “Missing Middle” and affordability, Lantelme suggested names that clarify the study’s exploration of form. He pointed to “Low-Rise,” the name Los Angeles gave to its effort to add more low-rise multi-family buildings to the city.

“Why hobble yourself at the front, when you can try to get a term that is more accurate, that doesn’t have the connotations that people seem to be associating Missing Middle with, which is affordability,” he said.

Cleva said CPHD is also picking up on a disconnect. Over the next few months, during targeted engagement with members of harder-to-reach populations, she said CPHD will debut a clarifying tagline.

“In our interactions with them, we’ll be using a new tagline for the study, ‘Expanding Housing Choice’ and also continuing to articulate that the term ‘Missing Middle’ describes the size and type of a home — in the middle of a spectrum of housing options ranging from single detached homes to mid- and high-rise apartments and condos,” Cleva said.

She says CPHD is trying to address some misconceptions that resulted from a lack of engagement with certain populations.

“Basically, while we’ve reached many people, our engagement data thus far shows that there are many we have not reached, especially among renters and populations that have historically had less access to participate in planning processes,” she said. “It follows then that people we have not had a chance to dialogue with about the study may be unclear about its purpose and scope.”

On the question of renaming the study, Cleva said it’s not out of the realm of possibility.

“[We] remain open to the possibility of renaming the study, should we continue to receive feedback about the name causing confusion,” she said.

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Peter’s Take is a biweekly opinion column. The views expressed are solely the author’s.

Arlington residents’ lives have been upended by COVID-19: parents have struggled to juggle virtual schooling and work responsibilities; many restaurants, hotels and small businesses have disappeared. The County budget has been battered. Yet, County government has been moving full speed ahead to help builders and developers of high-end housing fatten their bottom lines.

Arlington’s Missing Middle (MM) Housing study is a heavily subsidized County government initiative pre-ordained to reach a “solution” to a non-existent problem. The housing types on which this study focuses already are plentiful in Arlington. Many more already can be built by right.

As my colleagues at Arlingtonians for Our Sustainable Future (ASF) demonstrate, up-zoning to enable construction of even more of this MM housing will NOT provide affordable housing for those most in need.

Missing middle housing is high-end, not affordable, housing

County staff have abandoned earlier claims that their MM study will yield affordable housing. Cloaking themselves in the language of civil rights advocates, they now argue these MM housing types are “under-represented.” A current Green Valley project demonstrates why increasing the representation of MM housing will boost the supply of high-end housing while accelerating the loss of racial, ethnic, and economic diversity, exacerbating our long-term budget deficit, and further damaging our environment. County Board members should renounce these bad community outcomes.

Dr. Jon Huntley of Arlington Analytics (along with ASF’s Mary Glass) recently completed a study of the Towns of 24th townhomes project in Green Valley. This project will provide townhome units in two fourplexes, replacing two single-family homes valued at $675,000 each. Marketing materials show each luxury townhome “starting at $800,000,” meaning owners will need to make $138,977 per year to get a mortgage.  

The County — with no factual evidence to support its claims – says MM homes will be a pathway to diversity. Yet consider 2014-18 U.S. Census data cited in Arlington’s Missing Middle Research Bulletin #2, which shows these Arlington average annual household incomes:

  • African-American – $58,878/year
  • Hispanic – $77,743/year
  • Non-Hispanic white – $134,723/year

Based on these averages, Towns of 24th owners are more likely than not to be white, and in any event, wealthier persons of any race/ethnicity whether relocating from within or outside Arlington. Other data show the townhome price range falls well above income levels of current residents who are over 65, occupy federal or county government jobs, or who are single parents or immigrants.

In higher income or more expensively priced areas either in South Arlington or North Arlington, the market values of new MM housing will require owners to have much higher incomes than the $138,977 in the Towns of 24th example.

By contrast, analyses presented to County staff as part of the current 5-year review of Arlington’s Affordable Housing Master Plan, demonstrate that Arlington’s greatest need for affordable housing is for those who earn 60% or less of Area Median Income (AMI). Sixty percent of current AMI is $68,040 (Slide 8).

Arlington lacks long-term infrastructure financing plans

Arlington has forecast that about 63,000 new residents will move here between 2020 and 2045 under existing zoning. As documented in an ASF presentation (Slides 2-5), Arlington has failed to develop long-term plans to pay for the new infrastructure needed to support these anticipated new residents, let alone the additional residents beyond the 63,000 who would be newly enabled to live here under MM up-zoning.

Arlington lacks long-term environmental impact plans

Arlington also lacks long-term plans to address the severe impacts on our environment of the current hyper-development that ASF’s Anne Bodine describes, let alone the incremental adverse environmental impacts of the arrival of 63,000, or even more, new residents.

Conclusion

Missing Middle housing is high-end housing not affordable housing. MM housing will accelerate gentrification, but will not help those in greatest need.

Before proceeding further, the County government first must:

  • Perform site-specific fiscal impact analyses for new, multi-unit residential projects
  • Release all existing long-term operating budget forecasts
  • Prepare these three sets of County forecasts comparing current zoning with any and all proposed MM up-zoning: (1) Long-term operating budget; (2) Long-term environmental impact; (3) Long-term household income by quintiles, showing projected disparities among different household groups compared to the national average

Peter Rousselot previously served as Chair of the Fiscal Affairs Advisory Commission (FAAC) to the Arlington County Board and as Co-Chair of the Advisory Council on Instruction (ACI) to the Arlington School Board. He is also a former Chair of the Arlington County Democratic Committee (ACDC) and a former member of the Central Committee of the Democratic Party of Virginia (DPVA). He currently serves as a board member of the Together Virginia PAC, a political action committee dedicated to identifying, helping and advising Democratic candidates in rural Virginia.

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After months of planning, Arlington County is preparing to enter the first phase of its “Missing Middle Housing Study.”

The study will look at whether the county should diversify its housing stock by introducing more housing types that have been typically prohibited from many neighborhoods.

Set to kick off on Oct. 29 after an Oct. 13 orientation meeting for community partners, the study’s first phase will focus primarily on community engagement, as county staff solicit ideas about what housing types to study and key priorities and issues to consider going forward.

The county is seeking “enlisting a network of community partners to facilitate broader study participation through the use of their own communication networks,” according to the study’s website.

“The most important consideration for community engagement is equity and ensuring that access and opportunities to participate in this process are equitable and inclusive,” Arlington County Department of Community Planning, Housing and Development planner Kellie Brown said. “We’re recommending a very distributed community engagement process to make sure that we’re not leaving anyone out.”

As laid out in a presentation to the Arlington County Board on Sept. 23, the Missing Middle Housing Study has been divided into three phases, concluding in the summer of 2022.

With the first phase expected to run until spring 2021, the second phase would start next summer with more in-depth analyses of the different possible housing types. The third phase will turn those recommendations into specific amendments to its zoning ordinance or comprehensive plan if necessary.

Since it was first presented to the public in January, the study’s scope has been slightly modified based on feedback the county got from various commissions and civic associations, as well as an online survey that drew 494 responses, according to Brown.

In addition to emphasizing the need to align Arlington’s land use and zoning policies with its diversity and inclusivity goals, the new scope highlights potential benefits of middle housing, such as improved walkability of neighborhoods and diversity of housing options, and clarifies that the study will be countywide, not just focused on neighborhoods dominated by single-family detached homes.

The refined scope also states that, while the study’s goals are to increase the supply and choice of housing available in Arlington, affordability can be considered as a potential community priority.

The study scope was developed based on community input, but some Arlington residents remain skeptical of the county’s goals, fearing that introducing duplexes, townhouses, and other forms of middle housing to new neighborhoods will further accelerate development in the county without alleviating affordability concerns.

The advocacy group Arlingtonians for Our Sustainable Future argues that the county should not ask residents to weigh in on missing middle housing until it also conducts studies of potential impacts on schools, the environment, flooding, the county budget, and other factors.

“I do think that Housing Arlington has not made the case that we really need to study introducing these housing types,” ASF founder Peter Rousselot said. “We think that it’s going to be good for developers to be able to develop and sell these houses, but without doing these environmental and fiscal impacts, it just doesn’t make sense for us.”

Arlington officials say that changing zoning policies to accommodate housing types other than single-family detached homes and high-rise apartment buildings — like duplexes and townhouses — is necessary to add to the county’s housing supply and manage the impact of anticipated regional growth. It could make up for long-standing policies, such as a rowhouse ban enacted in 1938, that contributed to segregating neighborhoods by race and class.

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Arlington County is in the midst of a “Missing Middle Housing Study,” to determine whether legalizing additional housing types in certain areas could  “address the shortage of housing supply in Arlington.”

So what is “missing middle housing” anyhow?

It’s described by Opticos Design, whose founder claims to have coined the term, as “a range of multi-unit or clustered housing types — compatible in scale with detached single-family homes — that help meet the growing demand for walkable urban living.”

Alternately, Wikipedia describes it as “multi-unit housing types such as duplexes, fourplexes, bungalow courts, and mansion apartments that are not bigger than a large house, that are integrated throughout most walkable pre-1940s neighborhoods, often [on] blocks with primarily single-family homes, and that provide diverse housing choices and generate enough density to support transit and locally-serving commercial amenities.”

In a nutshell, missing middle housing is what’s between single-family detached homes and mid-rise apartment buildings, including duplexes, townhouses and fourplex apartments. And Arlington County is studying zoning changes that would allow it in certain places, to increase housing supply and provide alternatives to moderate-income households that can’t afford pricy detached homes (median sale price in 2019: about $950,000, compared to $575,000 for townhouses and duplexes.)

In a recent webinar, below, county staffers said the study is being conducted as housing costs rise and the county’s population is expected to exceed 300,000 by 2045.

Without finding ways to increase the housing stock and the types of housing in the county, the webinar suggested, Arlington will become more expensive and less diverse.

Current building trends, according to the presentation, are skewed toward the replacement of smaller, older homes with large, luxury houses in single-family home neighborhoods, while developers build small one- and two-bedroom apartments and condos along Metro corridors.

Neither are good options for a family of moderate means.

“We have a gap in housing options here in Arlington,” the presentation said. “Arlington’s Metro corridors offer smaller apartment and condo units in medium to high density buildings, however that style of housing does not suit everyone’s needs. Other neighborhoods offer single-family homes or townhomes and only a very limited quantity of other housing types.”

“If we do nothing to address these challenges, the existing housing stock will continue to get more and more expensive while existing mid-sized homes will continue to be replaced by large single-family homes and very little else,” the presenter continued. “Arlington’s vision to be diverse and inclusive will become less and less attainable. Our lowest income households are at home risk of being squeezed out, while moderate income households will also be at risk, further burdened with rising housing costs and potentially unable… to stay here.”

The webinar went on to explain the history of Arlington’s zoning ordinance, which echoes the history of such zoning decisions in many other communities. Currently, the zoning ordinance prevents duplexes and triplexes in most neighborhoods.

“A recent study found that 73 percent of the land zoned for residential use in Arlington is zoned exclusively for single-family detached housing,” the presenter said. “These zoning restrictions originated in early 20th century decisions that required the separation of different housing types. This enabled patterns of racial and economic segregation and the repercussions of that persist today.”

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Arlington County is currently working through a plan to add more options for housing through zoning changes, but there was disagreement during a recent Transportation Commission meeting over whether greater diversity of housing types will actually help with affordability.

Staff at the Transportation Commission noted that what’s being built these days are typically either condos and apartments or huge single-family homes. Townhouses and smaller, “starter” homes are more rare, resulting in a shrinking supply of housing accessible to young families.

“Neighborhoods are changing,” staff said. “Even without any intervention that will continue to change. New construction is either very large homes or smaller units in Metro corridors. Only 6% are three bedrooms or more, and that creates some tension as people seek to find housing for growing families.”

While affordable, mid-size units are in demand, the most lucrative options for developers are the higher-priced, luxury housing. Without some sort of intervention, staff said the neighborhoods will continue to become more expensive.

A framework for the Missing Middle Housing Study released in late December said the goals of the plan are:

  • A shared definition for the term “missing middle housing” for Arlington
  • A set of policy options to support preservation of existing Missing Middle housing stock and production of new Missing Middle housing types for County Board consideration
  • Identification of additional considerations relating to the Comprehensive Plan and other County policies and practices to be further reviewed in support of the goals of this process
  • The ability for new housing type alternatives to be built that meet Arlington’s definition of ‘missing middle housing”, offering greater affordability and design that is complementary and compatible with the scale and style of their intended neighborhoods

Part of that framework also dealt with “locational factors” for missing-middle housing.

“Building more housing… where people shop and work and have easy access to transit is one of the few things we can do in a small community to lessen our carbon impact,” said Transportation Commission member Chris Yarie. “Really drive the pedal down on that a lot, please.”

Transportation Commission member Audrey Clement was more wary of the plan, saying that it calls to increase types of housing but says nothing about affordability or equity. Instead, Clement echoed concerns of some in Arlington that the plan is an effort to quietly curtail single-family zoning.

“This is about the densification of the county and further gentrification of the county,” Clement said. “Given that is implied in the goals, to implement such a plan would require upzoning. Therefore it is disingenuous to say this is not about upzoning because that’s precisely what would be required to increase housing in residential neighborhoods.”

Clement pointed to the Veitch Street home to be replaced by several townhouses, discussed earlier in that same meeting.

“We’re really replacing every million-dollar home with up to seven million-dollar homes on residential lots,” Clement said. “That will serve the purpose of densifying the county, but it won’t provide more affordable housing and it’s a misnomer to call this a Missing Middle plan.”

Clement’s concerns are echoed by Arlingtonians for Our Sustainable Future, a group “concerned about Arlington County’s accelerated population growth and density” and its effect on water infrastructure, schools and transportation systems.

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(Updated at 11:35 a.m.) Could legalizing duplexes and triplexes in certain areas be a way to provide more affordable, middle-income housing in Arlington?

That’s what Arlington County will trying to determine with a new “Missing Middle Housing Study.”

In announcing the study, the county pushed back on the assertion — made by some activists —  that it was looking to eliminate single-family zoning entirely, as was done in Minneapolis. Instead, county staff said that “neither an across-the-board rezoning, nor an elimination of single-family zoning, would be the right fit for Arlington.”

The study will explore whether allowing more types of housing could “address the shortage of housing supply in Arlington” and will determine where the new housing types could be allowed so as to be “compatible with existing neighborhoods.”

The study — part of the overall Housing Arlington initiative — is expected to begin in 2020.

Meanwhile, a statewide missing middle housing bill has been proposed. HB 152, introduced in the Virginia House of Delegates by a Northern Virginia legislator, proposes requiring “all localities to allow development or redevelopment of ‘middle housing’ residential units upon each lot zoned for single-family residential use.”

The press release on the Arlington County housing study is below, after the jump.

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Gunston Middle SchoolGunston Middle School students will be dismissed just before noon today due to an air conditioning issue.

School administrators say they are “currently without air conditioning in the majority of our building.” The A/C troubles come as temperatures are expected to reach into the upper 90s today.

Separately, Taylor Elementary School is also reported to be experiencing air conditioning problems.

“There is an issue with the HVAC in three classrooms,” Arlington Public Schools spokesman Frank Bellavia told ARLnow.com. “The problem is intermittent and right now it is on. Maintenance is looking into the problem and we are watching it closely.”

A parent tells us that her daughter’s kindergarten classroom, another classroom and the school’s gym are “a sweatbox.”

“My daughter was talking about fighting to sit by a fan,” the parent said.

The letter from school administrators to Gunston parents, after the jump.

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