What is the “Missing Middle?”

By Mike Steely
Senior Writer

Knoxville, Knox County, and Farragut have been seeing large increases in population. It has been estimated that about 30,000 more dwellings are needed over the next few years.

The lack of housing has caused increases in mortgage, loan and monthly rental rates, and in speculation on empty, abandoned and tax-due lots in the city. The county is seeing numerous properties formerly zoned agricultural being switched to residential classifications.

The Missing Middle is a term that has popped up in recent years regarding the need for additional housing and is often used to address the problem in Knox County.

Missing Middle Housing types are house-sized buildings with multiple units, such as duplexes, fourplexes, cottage courts and multiplexes, that fit seamlessly into existing neighborhoods. Creating more Middle Housing would help increase the supply of housing available to all kinds of families while giving them options in housing types and prices.

The Knoxville City Council recently asked the planning commission to review several proposals to look at revising its regulations in order to open up the market to property setbacks, smaller-sized dwellings, and adding accessory dwellings on lots that already contain the main single-family home.

Knox County Mayor Glenn Jacobs has said that housing is now an issue for middle-income families, not just the poor. The county commission is preparing to routinely approve the public auction sale of acquired taxes-due property for less than the taxes owed.

The city is hosting a Missing Middle Housing open house Monday, September 25 at the John T. O’Connor Center at 611 Winona Street from 4:30-7 p.m.

Interested Knoxville residents can drop by during those hours for more information.

Will the changes in city and county policies — allowing for smaller dwellings, duplexes, apartments, and permitting homeowners to build an additional house on their lots—help with affordable housing? Is the city’s involvement in grants and loans to housing developers helping?

Is it a question of preserving neighborhoods or making room for more and different dwellings or a compromise to do both? That’s the real Missing Middle discussion going on now.