Debunking the Myths About “Missing Middle” Up-zoning

Comments at Arlington County Board Meeting, September 17, 2022.

As the only County Board candidate opposed to Missing Middle up-zoning, I want to debunk some myths about it.

Myth 1. Missing Middle will redress racial inequities by providing affordable housing.

Loud Opposition to Missing Middle Up-zoning at 9/17/22 County Board Meeting.

Not so. According to the County’s own data a household must earn at least $108,000 a year to qualify for the smallest 1 bedroom unit in an 8-plex (p. 20). Black and Latino median household income is a fraction of that.  (p. 8).

Myth 2. Missing Middle will provide more home buying opportunities for people who can afford it.

Not so. The County projects that about 90 percent of new units built will be 1-2 bedrooms already in good supply. In fact, the Plan will cause a net loss in needed 3-bedroom units.  Also, the data suggest 80% will be rentals, not owner occupied.

Myth 3. Only 20 lots a year will be Missing Middle (p. 19). So the impacts will be negligible.

Doubtful. The County has refused to show the math behind this number, but the impacts of Missing Middle on schools, parking, traffic, runoff and tree canopy could be enormous. The flipping of properties by out of state investors will inflate land values and real estate assessments, displacing moderate income residents, and leaving the rest with a huge tax burden.

Myth 4. “Tree canopy of 20% to 50% is achievable” (p. 23).

No so. According to the Arlington Tree Action Group, the tree canopy replacement requirement will be slashed in half, potentially impacting 60% of Arlington’s existing tree canopy. Implementation of only 20% of the planned rezoning, as the County projects can happen, would remove trees from an area the size of 9 Pentagon parking lots.

Alternatives to Missing Middle up-zoning include community land trusts, commercial to residential conversions, and restoring the partial tax credit for renovation of multi-family dwellings.