Apartment building with brick and white vinyl siding exterior

FAQ: Raleigh's Missing Middle

Jump To:

Can you summarize the text changes that occurred in Raleigh for the missing middle? What did TC-5-20 do? What did TC-20-21 do? What is a flag lot? Why allow more housing near transit? What areas are designated as proximate to high-frequency transit? How do these changes relate to the Transit Overlay District and Bus Rapid Transit? What is the Frequent Transit Development Option? How will this impact neighborhoods with a Neighborhood Conservation Overlay District (NCOD)?  Can this impact the amenities surrounding my neighborhood? Will this lower the value of my house?  Will this result in the clear-cutting of lots? Will this result in additional stormwater runoff? Will this increase traffic? What guarantee is there that housing built as a result of these changes will be affordable? Will I be notified about these types of projects?

Can you summarize the text changes that occurred in Raleigh for the missing middle?

Apartment buildings at Washington Terrace.

City Council passed text change TC-5-20 in the summer of 2021. This ordinance amended the City’s zoning code to permit more types of housing in residential neighborhoods, particularly duplexes and townhouses. Shortly thereafter, the Council directed staff to implement other creative strategies to increase the supply of housing with a particular focus near planned transit investments.

TC-20-21, was the next step in a more flexible zoning code designed to allow for smaller homes on smaller lots and denser development near high-frequency transit. TC-20-21 built on recently adopted policies to promote alternative and missing middle housing types so that Raleigh can better accommodate existing and future residents. TC-20-21 was adopted on May 10, 2022, and took effect on August 8, 2022.

What did TC-5-20 do?

TC-5-20 expanded missing middle housing options in many residential zoning districts, including the following:

  • Density, measured as units per acre, is no longer regulated in all districts except R-1. Instead, standards for lot size, yards, and building height will determine what can be built. This approach is known as form-based zoning.
  • Two-family homes are permitted in all districts except R-1 under the same standards as single-family homes.
  • Townhouses, previously only permitted in the R-10 district, are now permitted conventionally in R-6, as well as R-2 and R-4 when part of a development that includes significant open space.
  • Apartment buildings, already permitted in R-10, can be developed on smaller lots when only including three units.

What did TC-20-21 do?

Daniel Street Condos - Planning and Development

TC-20-21 is sometimes referred to as "Missing Middle 2.0" and made the following changes to the UDO:

  • Reduced the lot size requirements, and increased the allowed building size, for tiny houses. A tiny house could have a maximum 800-square-foot building footprint and a 1,200-square-foot floor area.
  • Permitted Tiny Houses to be used for either single-unit or two-unit (duplex) living.
  • Permitted flag lots in residential districts for the construction of Tiny Houses.
  • Permitted two-unit townhouses in the R-4 zoning district.
  • Synchronized lot dimensional standards across most residential building types.
  • Allowed denser residential development within proximity of planned high-frequency transit with some additional bonuses for affordable units.
  • Allowed Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) on townhouse lots and two ADUs on a lot when located close to planned high-frequency transit.
  • Reorganized the code to include ADU and Cottage Court regulations in both the Residential and Mixed-Use chapters of the UDO.

What is a flag lot?

Flag Lot - Missing Middle

A flag lot is an irregularly shaped property, often with a narrow portion of land fronting on the street, that provides access to a larger portion of the lot to the rear. Flag lots are common in many cities and counties throughout the country and allow for the efficient use of oversized lots. Under these changes, a flag lot can be smaller than a traditional residential lot and therefore only tiny houses (1,200 sf max) are permitted on these lots.

Why allow more housing near transit?

Access to reliable transportation impacts people’s lives and can be a determining factor when deciding where to work or buy a home. High-frequency transit will provide the residents of Raleigh with increased mobility and opportunity. By allowing more housing along transit corridors, the City can ensure more people have access to the goods, services, amenities, and employment they rely on.

What areas are designated as proximate to high-frequency transit?

Frequency Transit Map - Missing Middle

The City has adopted a map to designate specific areas within proximity of high-frequency transit. This map took into consideration existing and planned transit investments and has been incorporated into the City’s Comprehensive Plan.

To verify whether a property is located within a Frequent Transit Area:

  1. Search for the property in iMAPS
  2. Select the Raleigh Planning and Development layer
  3. Select the Urban Form sublayer.
  4. Frequent Transit Areas are shown in translucent white with a black border. (Note: To improve visibility, it may be helpful to deselect other layers.)

How do these changes relate to the Transit Overlay District and Bus Rapid Transit?

The City is preparing for Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) and part of that process includes the creation of a Transit Overlay District (TOD) which allows for denser residential development and requires pedestrian-oriented design along future BRT corridors. While the TOD and TC-20-21 have some elements in common, there are a few key differences.

The TOD will be mapped through a traditional rezoning process and will only apply to properties in the immediate vicinity of BRT routes. It will also permit higher-density residential development and prohibit auto-oriented uses. In contrast, TC-20-21 applies to a larger area of the City but permits a more modest increase in density as compared to the underlying zoning district.

What is the Frequent Transit Development Option?

The Frequent Transit Development Option (FTDO) allows for increased density and multifamily housing near planned high-frequency transit service. Buildings will appear similar in size to those in residential districts, but more units can be located on a site that could otherwise be constructed today.

While the primary goal of the FTDO is to provide additional housing near transit, larger projects will require the provision of affordable units.

In residential districts, twenty percent (20%) of the residential units over twelve (12) established within a development site must be affordable to households earning sixty percent (60%) of the Area Median Income or less for a period of no less than 30 years.

In mixed-use districts, properties currently zoned for a maximum of three stories can construct an additional two stories if 20% of the bonus units meet the affordability criteria outlined above.

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 remain unchanged under this text change and will apply to any new building types permitted under TC-5-20, such as two-family homes. However, as is the case with the current code, anything not regulated by an overlay district is regulated by the underlying zoning.

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.

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. Some neighborhoods, like Yarborough Park, provide housing options that are more affordable than single-family.

Will this result in the clear-cutting of lots?

Tree Conservation Area - Missing Middle

The City’s existing Tree Conservation Area requirements will continue to apply to larger projects (>2 acres). In addition, the City is currently pursuing additional changes to our tree preservation rules, which if adopted, would apply to these types of projects.

Will this result in additional stormwater runoff?

Bioswale - Missing Middle

Raleigh’s existing Stormwater Control measures will apply. Smaller lots will be held to maximum impervious surface limitations while larger lots will be held to nitrogen reduction and stormwater runoff controls.

Will this increase traffic?


The intention of these text changes is to encourage denser development that will shorten trip length, reduce vehicle miles traveled (VMT), and make other modes more appealing, such as walking, biking, and public transit. While most projects will not result in a significant increase in traffic, larger scale developments may necessitate the completion of a traffic impact analysis (TIA) to determine if additional site improvements are needed.

What guarantee is there that housing built as a result of these changes will be affordable?

Except for the Frequent Transit Development Option, described in more detail, above, most of these changes are not paired with legally binding affordability restrictions and will be market rate. The intention is to permit more and different types of housing to increase overall supply. Visit the Zoning Changes and Housing Choices webpage to read more about housing affordability and the missing middle.

Will I be notified about these types of projects?

Unlike a rezoning or other legislative action, these projects are approved administratively following a comprehensive staff review. Except for subdivisions (the creation of multiple lots), no formal notice will be provided. This is true for most of the development you see in Raleigh. If you are curious about a particular project you can search for it on our Current Development Activity page, Permit and Development Portal, or contact the City directly.



Keegan McDonald
Planning Supervisor
Email Keegan

Planning and Development
Service Categories: