From Matt de Ferranti <[email protected]>
Subject Missing Middle/Expanded Housing Options
Date March 28, 2023 2:59 PM
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The Arlington County Board approved changes to our zoning ordinance that will allow expanded housing options.

Dear Friends,

Last Wednesday the Arlington County Board approved changes to our zoning ordinance that will allow expanded housing options on land that has historically been limited to single family detached homes.

The amendments will allow for Expanded Housing Options (EHO) development for up to 6 units per residential lot if certain conditions are met, including the same building height, setbacks, and size as allowed for single-detached homes. The Board capped annual permits at 58, distributed in two groups based in part on current zoning districts.
[link removed]
To watch my thoughts about missing middle as we adopted the zoning amendments, go to the 3:08:33 mark by clicking above. (10 minutes in length.)
The changes we adopted follow through on the goals I shared with you last year as I sought to continue to serve Arlington on the County Board. They are best described in my remarks, but here's a summary for those without 10 minutes to watch:
1. The status quo is not acceptable: in the same space that is currently allowed for single family homes, we should allow additional density in the form of additional units with reasonable accommodations.
2. If we want the economic ladder to work for those residents who currently rent here and want to stay, own here and may want to downsize, and for our children and their friends in Arlington Public Schools, we must allow for additional density.
3. Specifically, allowing duplexes and townhomes is something I believe we can all agree on if we truly think about the specific policies involved.
4. Fourplexes, fiveplexes, and sixplexes are, admittedly, more controversial. Ultimately, I believe the increases in the cost of housing in Arlington over the last 15 years, the specific need to economically and racially better integrate our neighborhoods, and the climate benefits, make this additional density worthy of support.
5. The costs of seven and eightplexes are not worth the benefit. I offered the amendment that removed both from consideration in January. I believe it was the right thing to do.
6. The stormwater, school capacity, parking, not-affordable-housing, and traffic arguments raised in opposition, are ones that can fairly be answered and are not sufficiently strong to justify inaction.

Summary of the Missing Middle/Expanded Housing Options Zoning Changes ([link removed])
A summary of the specific changes and the details of the ordinance are available by clicking the blue button above. I recommend the bullets that you can see by scrolling down after you click on the button as a great way to truly understand better what is actually in the policy.

Both the details of the policy and the overall arguments and context on this are important. On the big picture arguments and context, the Washington Post wrote an editorial on Saturday, March 18th that I believe makes a persuasive case for action on missing middle. You can read it by clicking here:
Washington Post Editorial on Missing Middle ([link removed])
I worked to find thoughtful policies that best serve all of Arlington to the very end. The key issues we considered last week were a cap on the number of missing middle units allowed in any one year and parking, with significant debate on minimum lot coverage and tiering. The Board adopted an annual cap that requires that missing middle units are not all located in one zoning district. I supported the caps as guardrails to protect against unintended consequences and to help with implementation and an amendment that will help provide flexibility so they do not serve as overly burdensome limitations on building missing middle housing units.

On parking, I supported an amendment that allows for additional parking where transit is not currently sufficiently accessible and attainable. I believe parking can be a legitimate concern and did a lot of thinking about how much is needed. On the concept of tiering, I offered an amendment that was based on how much parking can be accommodated on the streets in my own neighborhood and in other neighborhoods across the County. That amendment did not succeed. I offered it because I felt it consistent with the views I expressed last year and my thinking now with respect to five and six unit dwellings--they should be allowable where reasonable, absent specific credible concerns.
Washington Post Preview of the Final Debate: Summary of the Details that Matter on Missing Middle ([link removed])
Ultimately, the Board's action and my own were what I would describe as thoughtful, significant progress. We enacted substantial change with guardrails to shape that change, consistent with Arlington's need and efforts to become a better place for all. We worked to build consensus, not unanimity. The 62% of Arlington residents who rent and the 38% of Arlington residents who own each matter to me. I believe this policy best serves all of us. I listened and engaged with all, even if, and perhaps especially when, I did not agree. I will continue to do so.
Washington Post after action article: a review of what happened ([link removed])
Missing middle will not fix all our problems or deliver housing that is affordable to every income level, but it is a critical step forward in providing greater access to housing that is more affordable. My vote in favor of moving forward is my strong support for an Arlington that is welcoming in its people, diverse in its communities, and with opportunities for everyone from any and all walks of life.

Respectfully and sincerely,


Authorized by Matt for Arlington

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