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Arlington County greenlights 'Missing Middle' zoning reform

The unanimous 5-0 vote allows for developers to submit permits to build multi-family homes in lots zoned for single-family houses.

ARLINGTON, Va. — Arlington County lawmakers voted unanimously Wednesday to approve the 'Missing Middle' zoning reform settling a yearslong debate over housing in the Northern Virginia suburb. 

The 5-0 approval means developers will be able to submit permits to construct multi-family units like condos or townhomes in lots zoned for single-family houses. The size of the lot will determine the number of units with a cut-off at six units.

The controversial decision comes after months of debate and after Saturday, the County Board heard from over 200 community members. 

"Right now we have given a chance that 75% of Arlington's land area, which can only accommodate one house on a lot, can now provide a chance for those opportunities to come to more people," said Christian Dorsey, the Arlington County Board Chair to WUSA9. 

WATCH: Arlington County Board approves Missing Middle Zoning plan

Amid community concerns including environmental impact and impacts on housing pricing, the board established guardrails for the plan including a 58-permit cap per year for the first five years. 

Mike Aaron was among the hundreds of residents who supported the policy. 

"I am mostly concerned about affordability here in Arlington. It's a very expensive county. I just don't want to be driven out," said Aaron. 

Other community groups are not so convinced. The advocacy group Arlingtonians for Upzoning Transparency (AFUT) argue that the reform will actually not drive down housing prices. 

Anne Bodine is among the opponents who says that the plan does little to address the loss of diversity in her community and the lack of affordable housing.

"It's going to make it a lot harder to bring what the board members mentioned, which is true affordable housing. I think it's possibly going to gentrify this county," said Bodine. 

Policy supporters like the NAACP say the reform is a first step to create "attainable housing" which indirectly will have an impact on affordable housing according to the Arlington County Chapter President, Mike Hemminger. 

"We know in the advocate space as well, that when people trade up from their space and move into a missing middle, that house that they have been staying in for maybe a decade or two decades comes on the market and perhaps that house is affordable," said Hemminger to WUSA9. 

The new housing zoning policy will go into effect on July 1.

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