An attached two-family home

Missing Middle: Adding More Affordable Housing in Raleigh

Amending comprehensive plan to add more option

Raleigh is rapidly growing and needs new ways to accommodate housing. 

By allowing incremental change over a much wider area, growth can be accommodated with a variety of housing types and in different neighborhood settings, meeting the demand for living in these areas at different price points and for households at different stages of life.

Proposed Changes

CP-4-21 is a Comprehensive Plan Amendment that changes the relevant policies and language in the 2030 Comprehensive Plan to align with the changes to the Unified Development Ordinance proposed in TC-5-20 Missing Middle Housing.

The proposed changes include:

  • Modifications to the Low-Density Residential and Moderate-Density Residential Future Land Use Map Designations and
  • Revisions to policy language that support the development of missing middle housing types.

See the full proposed amendment. You can also ask questions and comment on this change to the Comprehensive Plan through the Comprehensive Plan Engagement Portal.

About the Missing Middle

Missing middle housing types occupy a middle ground between single-family homes and large apartment buildings. Once common, and still present in the city’s older neighborhoods, they have largely been excluded by zoning that favors or mandates single-family use. These types of housing are generally more affordable than single-family homes and are also more energy-efficient, as they share walls and/or ceilings. Allowing these types of housing in more areas is an incremental way to increase the housing supply while maintaining the existing scale and character of existing neighborhoods.

FAQs/Commonly Asked Questions

What is the 2030 Comprehensive Plan?

The 2030 Comprehensive Plan is a long-range policy document adopted and amended by the City Council. The Plan establishes a vision for the City, provides policy guidance for growth and development, and contains action items directed at the City to implement the vision. The Plan contains six strategic vision themes, which are referenced in every element, or chapter, of the document. The Plan is divided into four major sections: the Introduction and Framework, the Plan Elements, the Area Plans, and Implementation. See the 2030 Comprehensive Plan webpage for more information.

What impact does changing the language in the 2030 Comprehensive Plan have?

The proposed amendments would be implemented mainly through staff review of rezoning requests and other land-use decisions. Staff analyzes every rezoning request on whether it is consistent with the adopted policies in the Comprehensive Plan. Changing the language in the policies would provide more policy support for rezonings that could increase the variety of housing types allowed. Changing the language in the Comprehensive Plan would also ensure that TC-5-20 if adopted, would not be inconsistent with the adopted policies in the Comprehensive Plan.

Does the 2030 Comprehensive Plan change my zoning?

Zoning is the law that controls what can be built where. The only way zoning is changed is through a City Council decision to change that law, otherwise known as a rezoning. The 2030 Comprehensive Plan is a policy document that has recommendations for land use decisions like rezonings, but it does not change the zoning itself.

What guarantee is there that housing built as a result of this text change will be affordable? 

Unless explicitly subsidized and subject to legally binding affordability restrictions, this new housing will be market-rate—the price or rent will be determined by the willingness of households to pay. Most sellers, even those committed to the idea of housing affordability, generally sell to the highest bidder. If demand in an area is very strong, prices will be high, even for smaller units in multiple dwellings. 

Within the same neighborhood, though, townhouses sell for less than single-family homes, and multi-family condominiums will sell for less than townhouses, as buyers trade-off indoor and outdoor space and privacy for location and access. 

An example is the Yarborough Park development in Mordecai. Primarily a townhouse development, it also includes two single-family lots at the entrance. The single-family homes are assessed at over $600,000—the townhouses behind, about half of that. 

Further, if households cannot find housing they can afford in their preferred, high-demand neighborhood, they will look for housing in other nearby neighborhoods with lower price points. This will drive up prices in these currently affordable neighborhoods, a process we already see happening south and east of Downtown. Absorbing more demand elsewhere is one way to relieve pressure on currently affordable areas. 

Will this lower the value of my house?

This is a common fear, but there is little evidence for it. The closest thing we have to a natural experiment is the existence of missing middle housing in old neighborhoods such as Oakwood, Boylan Heights, Mordecai, and Cameron Park that predate exclusive single-family zoning. These neighborhoods are among the most valuable in the City. The presence of two- to four-unit buildings and townhouses in these neighborhoods does not appear to have suppressed the value of these areas. Yet, as the Yarborough Park example shows, they provide housing options that are more affordable than single-family.

How will traffic and parking be impacted in my neighborhood?

The incremental increase in housing units allowed by this proposed text change is too modest to generate large amounts of new car traffic in a neighborhood. Off-street parking is still required.

How can this impact the amenities surrounding my neighborhood? 

Many residents value diversity, access to jobs, shopping, and other urban amenities. Neighborhoods with diverse housing types improve the spending power of a neighborhood. They also support more neighborhood-scale retail such as small restaurants or corner stores. More residents and increased commercial activity can also lead to a greater need for investment in public amenities like parks and pedestrian-friendly streetscapes.

How will this impact neighborhoods with a Neighborhood Conservation Overlay District (NCOD)?

Most NCODs regulate the subdivision of land through minimum and maximum lot sizes, lot widths and depths, and the form and scale of buildings through restrictions on height and setbacks. These regulations will be unchanged under this text change. However, as is the case with the current code, anything not regulated by an overlay district is regulated by the underlying zoning.

See the What is the Missing Middle? webpage for more information on TC-5-20 and Missing Middle Housing.