ARLINGTON COUNTY, Va. — In an unanimous decision, the Arlington County Board voted Wednesday to advance the 'Missing Middle' strategy aimed at addressing rising housing costs in the region.
This housing strategy sparked after a study conducted for the area referred to the missing middle of housing stock in the county. Arlington leaders say the “middle” refers to the size and type of a home, relative to its location, in the middle, of a housing scale spectrum.
Currently, most Arlington residents live in high-rise buildings or single-family detached homes. According to the county, about 75% of residential land in Arlington is exclusively zoned in the latter category.
For the last couple of years, Arlington leaders have studied ways to bring housing options like duplexes and triplexes to the area. They have also talked about how to improve county zoning standards to increase the housing supply all the while decreasing housing costs.
After multiple meetings in January, the plan is advancing after the board's 5-0 vote. With that vote, the county can advertise and set public hearings for proposed changes to the Zoning Ordinance and General Land Use Plan for the county. After that, the final decision can be made on the 'Missing Middle' plan with a vote in March.
Several board members made it clear that their vote to move the plan forward was not an endorsement of everything in the plan, indicating there was still work to be done before a final resolution could be adopted.
"There is a lot of hope left here, and I hope that we can do better over the coming months as we work our way toward a final policy," board member Katie Cristol said.
The Planning Commission and County Board will each hold public hearings and consider proposed amendments at their respective March meetings. The timing allows for additional opportunities for input from the community.
No final decisions on proposed amendments have been made, the county said. Final staff recommendations will include evaluation of advertised options with respect to the study’s identified community priorities and concerns, including a racial equity lens.
According to NAACP Arlington chapter President Mike Hemminger, in a tweet, during the process, three of the five board members removed eightplexes from the plan which creates problems for people of color.
"Three board members chopped eight from MMH, which has the same impact of excluding Black people from owning in modern time," he said in the tweet. "How dare board members say this action begins to right the wrongs of the past. This is de facto segregation and our leaders missed the mark on a such historic vote."
Officials said that if the plan passes, the policy would change zoning restrictions for 75% of the county’s residential areas, which is exclusively single-family detached homes.