Over the next few years you might hear the term ‘missing middle’ used to describe a type of housing we’re trying to encourage more of here. It has earned that name because, well, it doesn’t really exist in very many places in Edmonton.
Missing Middle housing is a term used to describe multi-family housing that is classified somewhere in the ‘middle’ of single family housing and high rise towers. You’d know it better as row housing, stacked row housing, low rise apartments and courtyard housing. While some of it is being built in Edmonton, nearly 88% of building applications for missing middle housing required a variance – which means our existing rules are proving cumbersome to work with.
If we’re going to be serious about planning Edmonton for a million people, and a metro region headed toward two million, we need more ‘missing middle’ housing to help manage our growth.
Through the Evolving Infill public engagement, a consistent theme was the desire for infill to be clustered around our existing nodes and corridors where transit connections are strong and there is a good base of community-scale retail. These areas are likely the best places for us to focus our zoning changes to build more medium density housing. And in these zoning changes, we’ll have to look at reducing the barriers to building this type of housing, including examining onerous height and parking restrictions. City staff are currently analyzing policy options, tools and approaches to encourage more of this type of development – their recommendations should come back in the Spring of 2018.
Housing affordability is a major issue right across the country, and Edmonton is no different. As many as 66% of Edmontonians can’t afford to purchase an average-priced home without additional financial support and a 10% deposit. Building more mid-density housing means building more affordable housing for families, closer to the core. We rank far behind other Canadian cities in our housing diversity – meaning we build a lot more single family homes and less medium and high density homes than most other cities.
As the fastest growing, youngest city in the country, we’re going to need to target our infill efforts on the ‘missing middle’ to keep Edmonton vibrant and competitive.