Last week for print, Jasmine Gallup reported on Raleigh’s missing-middle housing policy and some changes the Raleigh City Council could consider making to the policy.

We received the following letter from Nathan Spencer, the executive director for local housing and transportation advocacy nonprofit Wake Up Wake County, to members of Raleigh’s city council and thought this excerpt was worth sharing.

“… One of the many challenges in planning for the growth we have experienced and continue to see is that no one block, or neighborhood, city, or region exists in a vacuum. Our goals to build a world-class public transportation system are dependent on having enough people along the high-use corridors to support the bus rapid transit lines. Managing our skyrocketing cost of living is dependent in part on having reliable, frequent, and affordable transportation options that don’t lock-in Wake County residents to an automobile-dependent life. And how we shape our city affects not only Raleigh, but patterns of development in the surrounding region, which historically has contributed greatly to the ongoing climate crisis.

This is why we have long supported “Missing Middle” policies that can serve as one tool in the policy toolbox available to Raleigh as it works towards fulfilling its long-term goals of establishing a socially, economically, and environmentally sustainable community. No ordinance is perfect, and we feel the robust discussion about the policy changes that were passed by the previous council is healthy and an important conversation for the community to have. However, we strongly urge the council to avoid weakening the ordinance in a way that would revert to the previous status quo that primarily encouraged single-unit housing over large swaths of the city. This historical development pattern has resulted in many negative outcomes for our community, from an absence of walkable neighborhoods, to a lack of affordable housing options for young families, and high levels of climate polluting greenhouse gas emissions due to the automobile-dependent development pattern.

At a minimum we hope the following aspects of the ordinance are retained:

• The ability to put more homes on the lot including 1-3-plex and townhomes on almost all lots based upon lot size and height, not density per lot.

• Allowing for gentle density with height maximums in all areas, especially since larger single family homes are already as tall in many cases.

• Creating an opportunity for accessory dwelling units (ADUs), cottage courts, and tiny homes that won’t be the final solution to housing affordability, but has proven to help.

• The height bonuses for including affordable housing which, sadly, is one of our strongest tools for getting market participation in the housing crisis.

• Climate-responsible planning to preserve open space and reduce the impact from development.

• The fact that missing middle applies to almost every part of the city. The equitable inclusion of the housing diversity rules is paramount to taking the pressure off of neighborhoods that have experienced gentrification for years. Affordability is everyone’s responsibility.

• The emphasis on transit-oriented development (TOD) around frequent transit areas. This is especially key after our analysis of last years nation-wide BRT study which showed instances where the lack of TOD actually led to the depression in home values. You can read our analysis here.

In addition we strongly support measures that would significantly increase assistance to renters who are being displaced by new development. We believe this is the real crisis facing residents in our region. And given the lack of policy options provided to municipalities in North Carolina, we feel it is imperative that the city invests in a more robust program that helps tenants exercise their rights, and mitigates as much as possible the harm that comes from involuntary displacement ….”

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