May 22, 2018 I just returned from the 26th Annual Congress of the Congress for the New Urbanism in Savannah, GA where I took the opportunity to go on the “Missing Middle Housing: Found!” walking tour with Savannah architect, Eric Brown, his two young staff members and about two dozen Congress attendees. It was revealing!
As a city that has preserved a great deal of its 285-year history in its buildings and neighborhood layout, Savannah (founded 1733) is an ideal place to understand how what we now call “Missing Middle Housing” was an integral part of the development of our towns and cities in this nation since the 1700s. Duplexes, triplexes, fourplexes along with carriage houses and lane houses coexisted nicely beside single family homes and mansions.
Since the current top priority of the Portland Small Developer Alliance is to get fourplexes allowed as a use by right in all Portland neighborhoods, I will focus on fourplexes first. I believe the images speak for themselves but do read the captions!
While many of Savannah’s row houses from the 1800s came in sets of four, some are in sets of three–as illustrated below. I’m calling this a triplex!
Duplexes were somewhat common too. They came in a variety of forms.
Although many of the English basements serve as ADUs, I found this one off a courtyard that appeared to be a shared space.
Apartment buildings were an occasional part of the scene too.
I saw a number of drivers parallel park on the street while I was taking these photographs. They did not appear to have been circling to find a place as there were empty places on the street–even though I was photographing during “rush hour”.
I hope that the above images make a compelling case that fourplexes, triplexes, duplexes, ADUs and small apartment buildings can fit nicely into a neighborhood. They were certainly part of our early historic heritage–a heritage that I hope we will learn from as we now make single family-only neighborhoods a part of our history–a part of our history that has proved unsustainable. Let’s give our young people the opportunity to share our close-in walkable neighborhoods with housing prices that allow them to thrive. Let’s give our small developers the opportunity to build in ways that make sense for our current desire for 20-minute neighborhoods. The survival of our planet may depend upon it!
FOR PSC COMMISSIONERS READING THIS POST
The following is an amendment proposed by Portland Small Developer Alliance that we would like you to sponsor:
PSC Proposed Amendment to RIP
Allow four housing units on all residentially-zoned lots, by right, if within walking distance along a continuous pedestrian network to transit. Four units is considered by the Federal Housing Administration for mortgage lending to be a “house.” It is common sense to synchronize our zoning regulations with existing federal policy and definition. Given the high cost of land and development in Portland, new single-family houses on full-size lots affordable to average residents cannot be built. Dividing up the costs of site acquisition, design, permitting costs, impact fees, construction, and lending by four units allows the resulting cost per new home constructed to be affordable to a middle-class Portland household. Unit counts have a tiny impact on the surrounding community compared to building scale; within the regulated size of new projects, we should allow more units. Allowing a fourth unit gives us the opportunity to make the units we build more affordable to more people while still maintaining the scale and character of the neighborhoods we all enjoy.