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What is Missing Middle Housing and why should you care?

The term “missing middle” has caught the attention of planners and residents in cities around the world.

A row of houses in Montreal.

Published on August 14, 2018

By: Michelle German

Finding the right size housing at an affordable price and in a desirable neighbourhood –with a range of transportation options and near amenities – is becoming increasingly hard, no matter who you are.

This is where the missing middle comes in.

Why does the missing middle matter?

From a social perspective, a market that no longer provides housing opportunities for everyday households risks robbing the city of its vitality, creativity and opportunity. Future generations will seek to live elsewhere and newcomers will face discouraging prospects. Evergreen’s Missing Middle Working Group, part of our Housing Action Lab, has identified three reasons why we should pay attention to the missing middle now:

  1. Many families renting in Toronto are living in housing that does not have enough bedrooms for their size and makeup.
  2. Middle income wages have not kept pace with the cost of housing – both rental and ownership options
  3. Many middle age households can’t access the ownership market – so are staying longer in the rental market which creates stagnation in the market.
  4. Record low vacancy rates in the rental market  

What is the missing middle?

Want to learn more about Missing Middle in Toronto? Read Evergreen's recently-released report: What is the Missing Middle: A Toronto Housing Challenge Demystified.

Read the report

How do we address our Missing Middle challenges?

We need more ways to build a larger variety of housing beyond single family homes and high-rise buildings.

There has been some movement towards new housing forms – most recently at the City of Toronto when they adopted new legislation to support laneway suites. Other potential solutions include:

Residential zoning and gentle density: Residential zoning restricts missing middle housing types in Toronto’s “stable neighbourhoods.” The missing middle range of built form housing options may be a way of introducing gentle density to these areas.

The cost of mid-rise and innovative building models: There are a number of rules, regulations and market conditions that make building mid-rise and other forms of missing middle housing expensive compared to other options.

Zoning for innovation: In many of Toronto’s neighbourhoods and main streets, the zoning has not been updated to match the Official Plan and provincial policy. Some potential solutions include: pre-zoning, single lot strata, enhancement zones and inclusionary zoning.

Evergreen is working with members of the Housing Action Lab to create a productive framework for discussing what the missing middle is and more importantly – how we can advance solutions that provide more housing options for more people. This framework will provide enough flexibility for the current conversations on missing middle to consider things like location, tenure and the built form so that a more robust conversation on what kind of housing is missing, for whom and where. To learn more, subscribe to the Housing Action Lab newsletter and Evergreen News.

Michelle German is Senior Lead at Evergreen and manages the organization's action labs.