Affordable housing in Raleigh + the missing middle

University Park Triplex | 2402 Everett Avenue | photo by Annette + David Holt

Earlier this month, Raleigh ranked #3 on Commercial Café’s list of 10 best cities for millennials to relocate + has regularly been included among best cities for retirement.  Research has shown that millennials + retirees both want the same things when it comes to housing options — relative affordability and walkability come in at the top for desired criteria. These populations make up a large portion of our city’s population and are some of the most prospective homeowners among the nearly 200 people moving into Wake County each day. Amid rising prices and increasing demand on Raleigh’s current market, one solution that’s been proposed is to increase the city’s inventory of missing middle housing in order to bridge the gap between government-subsidized affordable housing and upscale luxury developments.

First, let’s start with some definitions. Missing middle housing includes duplexes, triplexes, fourplexes, townhouses (affordable ones), bungalow courts + granny cottages. In short, the term refers to house-scale buildings — typically no more than 3 stories tall — possessing multiple units and located in walkable areas

The word “missing” harkens to the fact that this housing model was abandoned, and in some cases outlawed, since the 1940s, giving preference to mid- and high-rise apartment developments and limiting home ownership opportunities in certain areas. In Raleigh, 80% of residential zoning is limited to single-family housing stock.

Pre-war neighborhoods built during the early 20th century are typically dense with missing middle housing, with a mix of home types clustered together in proximity to urban amenities such as transit and local retail. In Raleigh, missing middle housing can be found in neighborhoods like University Park, Cameron Park, Boylan Heights, Oakwood, and Bloomsbury.


Today, missing middle housing that was once removed from urban centers is being restored in cities like Atlanta, Austin, Portland + Denver, successfully creating a moderately-priced home supply for an increasing demand within existing and desirable neighborhoods. Some say it could be the answer to questions of housing affordability around the Triangle. (Here’s a look at some of the projects currently underway.)

In an interview with Raleigh magazine last fall, Mayor Mary Ann Baldwin said, “We really need to look at missing middle housing + how we can change our zoning to allow for more flexibility.”

Earlier this month, the newly-elected City Council voted to begin rezoning areas and do just that. A recent proposal would allow cottage courts — smaller homes with shared yard space or parking — in neighborhoods that were previously limited to single-family development only. Once the measure is approved by the planning commission, new courts could have up to 30 cottages each.  

Stay tuned. This conversation is part of our ongoing coverage on housing in Raleigh. You can read more on our website. Comments or questions? Don’t forget to share your thoughts — email us or hit us up on Instagram, Facebook + Twitter.

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