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Video, Updates: Arlington County Board Hears Public Comment From ~250 People on “Missing Middle” Housing Proposal

"The Missing Middle housing proposal will end exclusionary zoning, advance environmental justice and create housing opportunities for people of color"

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See below for video of today’s Arlington County Board public hearing on “Missing Middle” housing proposal, along with live tweets by WAMU reporter Margaret Barthel – who did a superb job at the last meetings on this topic back in late January. At that last meeting, the County Board unanimously passed a “Request to Advertise” on a “Missing Middle” housing proposal that came after a long process and much (sometimes heated) debate/discussion. A few comments at that hearing sum up my views on the subject.

  • “…we have walled off most of Arlington’s land allowing it to benefit from urban growth…Restricting growth in Arlington’s low density neighborhoods to maintain a nostalgic idea of a village that can’t accept multi-family buildings would be disastrous for our future sustainability affordability and equity. People are what make Arlington great. More people means more Arlington. Say yes to the most expansive proposal for missing middle housing.”
  • “Our area faces a growing population that can be housed either by increasing the density of currently developed areas or by building housing in undeveloped areas. In other words, we can have greater density or we can have greater sprawl. If Arlington fails to adopt an effective and substantial Missing Middle framework, the people who as a result can’t find a place to live in Arlington will not disappear – they will for the most part live in more distant suburbs or exurban areas. The possible negative environmental effects of building new housing in Arlington cited by Missing Middle opponents, such as air pollution and loss of open space, would be far greater from the sprawl development than is the alternative.”
  • The Missing Middle housing proposal will end exclusionary zoning, advance environmental justice and create housing opportunities for people of color…You might have noticed some differences in the demographics of those opposing the request to advertise [Missing Middle] as compared to those speaking for it. You’ve seen that among supporters of legalizing Missing Middle homes, there’s tremendous diversity in age, race, gender, education, income, lived experience and neighborhoods. We are a diverse coalition, united by the common goal of making housing more inclusive and accessible in Arlington. Now we recognize that for some of our neighbors, the status quo works just fine; I don’t expect those neighbors to appreciate how difficult it’s become for young people, people of color and renters to afford housing. Nor do I expect them to have our best interests at heart. What I do expect is that you, the County Board, will take action to realize the stated vision of being a diverse and inclusive world-class urban community. You have the power to end decades of exclusionary practice and make our residential neighborhoods more diverse, inclusive and equitable. I urge you to have the courage to take the county in a new direction and advertise a Missing Middle housing proposal without delay.”
  • “Adjusting our zoning policy is one step towards correcting Arlington’s history of zoning policy that intentionally excludes race and classes of people from living and benefiting from our community…changing the approach to using our land has really important climate and environmental benefits in Arlington and across our region.”

Also, see today’s WaPo editorial, which argues correctly:

“According to a study of the county’s zoning history, a 1930 ordinance cemented Arlington’s preference for single-family housing — and racial segregation — and another in 1938 banned rowhouses. Today, 73 percent of Arlington’s residentially zoned land is single-family, meaning that if a developer razes a house, it may be replaced only with another single-family house.

Don’t let this exclusionary setup live to see its centennial. “

So yes, Arlington County Board members, please approve as aggressive an inclusionary housing policy as possible, and move away as aggressively from the nearly 100-year-old “exclusionary setup” that should never have been passed in the first place – and that certainly should have been ditched a LONG time ago!

P.S. Personally, I will not support any candidate for County Board who opposes inclusionary zoning and/or supports keeping exclusionary zoning.

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