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Thursday, March 23, 2023
ArlingtonOpinionLetter: Where is proof 'Missing Middle' will achieve objectives?

Letter: Where is proof ‘Missing Middle’ will achieve objectives?

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Editor: In its draft study of other communities that enacted Missing Middle housing policies, Arlington’s Joint Facilities Advisory Commission concluded: “It was not clear from [commission] research that the Missing Middle housing in the jurisdictions researched were able to accomplish the goals of affordability, diversity or inclusion.”

And that’s the main point: Without evidence that Missing Middle achieves the professed goals, what is the justification for it?

Urban planning is a very tricky business, with a history of unfortunate unintended consequences for planners and communities who didn’t think things through carefully. Any benefits are purely speculative.

Second, Arlington is now a tech-fueled supercommunity. The economic and housing realities differ significantly from those in other communities. As Richard Florida writes at Bloomberg (https://bloom.bg/3wQMGVx):


“Expensive cities have much larger clusters of leading-edge tech and knowledge industries and of highly educated, skilled talent. It’s this, rather than differences in housing prices, that is behind growing spatial inequality.

“A key factor here is the growing divide between highly-paid techies and knowledge workers and much lower-paid people who work in routine service jobs.

“Upzoning does little to change this fundamental imbalance. While building more affordable housing in core agglomerations would accommodate more people, the extra housing would mostly attract additional skilled workers.

“Upzoning is far from the progressive policy tool it has been sold to be. It mainly leads to building high-end housing in desirable locations.”

Bill Roos, Arlington

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