Examples of Missing Middle Housing


Many Americans are unaware that they are being limited by decreased numbers of missing middle housing, numbers that have been decreasing steadily for the past thirty years.


“Missing Middle Housing” is a term coined by Daniel Parolek, an architect and urban planner from Opticos Design.

The missing middle refers to the early 20th century medium-sized residential structures that exploded throughout the United States between the 1870s and 1940s.

These types of structures include two-flats, duplexes, triplexes, bungalow courts, mansion apartments and more. Exterior areas (such as the yard and parking lot) are generally shared.

Since rental prices have been sky-rocketing nationally, many people are redeveloping an interest in this type of housing, although there have been issues with regards to residential density zoning laws.

This type of housing would accommodate a wider scale of needs than the current “bifurcated” housing system, which is primarily composed of new single-family houses and small rental apartments in high-rise buildings.


Missing middle housing will generally display the following characteristics:

  • Lower prices than single-family homes due to a smaller size and shared lawns and/or parking lots
  • A general residential density somewhere between 16-30 units per acre, however, smaller housing units are often less dense
  • Generally do not consist of more than fourteen units
  • Often “integrated” into areas with single-family homes to create diverse housing options
  • Can increase neighborhood density to support local convenience stores and transit options (for which many planners require at least a density of 16 units/acre)
  • Have become much less popular (hence “missing”) during the 1940s
  • Can be more profitable than renting larger living spaces


According to the 2014 U.S. Census Bureau, only about 19% of American housing structures represent the “missing middle” type of dwellings.

While the missing middle types had their heyday during the early 19th century, they had lived on until fairly recently.

Only thirty short years ago, approximately 1/5 of all newly sold houses were categorized as attached. This number dropped to only 10% by 2014.



Examples of Missing Middle Housing include:

The Selby Live/Work Building (Buena Vista, CO)

Jed Selby and Kate Selby-Urban found themselves interested in the social connectivity that missing middle housing provided. Working directly with Opticos Design, the siblings produced a structure that was compact and adaptable, all the while maintaining its attractiveness.

The Selby Live/Work Building has been described as a “microcosm of South Main’s aims as a whole. [It] unites traditional design with modern technique, and allows for the kind of personalization that makes a house into a home”.

Hamilton Square (Novato, CA)

Set to be built on a 2.5 acre area formerly home of the Hamilton Air Force Base, Hamilton Square is being designed by Opticos Design for West Bay Builders. Using four and five-plex buildings, as well as courtyard housing and live/work units for inspiration, Hamilton Square will be a beautiful piece of Spanish Revival style art.

The site is set to feature a tile roof, iron balconies, and stucco-coated exterior walls and chimneys. The majestic 4,380 square-foot center is set to be equipped with a postal pavilion.

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