The Missing Middle: Your Guide to Identifying an Emerging Housing Type

You may have heard the phrase missing middle, but what exactly is it?

The phrase ‘missing middle’ refers to multi-unit housing forms like duplexes, triplexes, row housing, and low-rise apartments – bridging the gap between small scale single-family homes and larger scale apartment buildings. Coined by architect and urban planner Daniel Parolek (Principal and Founder of Opticos Design Inc.), missing middle Housing was once common (think pre-World War II), but has more or less vanished over the last 60 to 70 years, giving way to single detached houses and soaring apartment towers.
Driven by consumer demand, small-scale multi-unit housing is coming back into vogue. This type of infill housing has the ability to blend relatively seamlessly into a typical mature neighbourhood, if offers a bit more affordability than a typical house, and it often boasts nearby shopping and transit, amenities that appeal to millennials and baby boomers alike.

How to Identify Missing Middle Housing

Still relatively rare, it helps to have a guide in hand to help you spot this emerging housing form.

*It’s usually within walking distance to various amenities and services, and tends to have less on-site parking than a typical house.
*It typically offers a small to medium-sized living area. Missing middle residents are often trading square footage for good design and a convenient location.
*It adds housing options, but remains unobtrusive in existing neighbourhoods.
*It tends to sell at a lower price point than single detached housing in the same area, since unit sizes are smaller.

What Makes Missing Middle Housing so Great, Anyway?

*Since most infill housing is situated within mature communities that are close to commercial destinations and various amenities, opportunities to use alternate transportation such as walking, cycling, or transit are more easily available. This helps reduce overall emissions within the city.
*Infill also encourages better utilization of existing infrastructure and services, so that city spending can be focused more on maintenance and/or upgrading costs as needed (vs continuously building new infrastructure as the city continues to expand outward).
*Another advantage is an increase in housing options. Whether you’re looking to upgrade, or downsize, missing middle housing provides options to stay within a neighbourhood that you love while choosing a home that best suits your needs and budget.
*Local businesses and community services can be sustained through increased density and usage (for example coffee shops, grocery stores, schools, recreation facilities, etc.).

The missing middle is a key form of infill. IDEA (Infill Development Edmonton Association) recognizes that the missing middle will help shape Edmonton into a collection of dynamic neighbourhoods. As our city grows, infill will play a greater role in the redevelopment and overall sustainability of our city. We are excited to see Edmonton evolve as the missing middle takes shape. IDEA is working actively with administration and Council to promote the missing middle in Edmonton.

Example of different forms of housing:


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