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Thursday, March 30, 2023
ArlingtonOpinionLetter: Proponents of Missing Middle keep changing rationale

Letter: Proponents of Missing Middle keep changing rationale

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Editor: The confusing messaging and misinformation surrounding Arlington’s Missing Middle Housing framework are undermining the clarity of and confidence in the entire process.

Individual County Board members have made, and are continuing to make, different and conflicting arguments for Missing Middle.

First, county leaders argued that it would create more affordable housing, especially for essential workers. When that proved impossible, board members said the issue is size, not price – we need more small units.

Missing Middle was supposed to provide home-ownership opportunities. Board member Matt de Ferranti has said his goal is creation of two- to three-bedroom units that people can own, but the county’s own materials say that 80 percent of Missing Middle units will be rentals, and 90 percent will be one- to two-bedroom units.


There are nearly 70,000 one- to two-bedroom units in Arlington now and are many new projects planned or under way that will create thousands of additional housing units of that size. How many more do we need?

The larger units de Ferranti wants would cost well in excess of $1 million, according to the county government’s own calculations. This is just about the price of smaller, older existing single-family houses that at least one County Board member has referred to as “teardowns” and claims, absent Missing Middle, will be replaced with oversized single-family houses. Why is that seen as inevitable when the current houses are the very definition of Missing Middle? Why is the county government not doing more to encourage their preservation?

Not surprisingly, given this convoluted and inconsistent messaging, there is confusion and misinformation within the community about Missing Middle.

For example, the mission statement of YIMBYs (“Yes In My Back Yard”) of Northern Virginia says that they “will make housing affordable to all by enabling the development of more and denser housing” – something that would be impossible in Arlington, but that many residents still believe.

One leader of a pro-Missing Middle group has written about wanting “policies that would allow a single mother [not high-income] of three to raise her kids in Lyon Village or Ashton Heights.” That is simply unrealistic under any current definition of Missing Middle.

If everyone in the county knew that Missing Middle will not be affordable – especially to people of color, essential workers and that single mother of three – would they support it? If they knew that nearly all of these units will be rentals, would they support it?

I wonder if the County Board is banking on this confusion in order to push through a deeply flawed proposal.

Barbara Taylor, Arlington

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