Aside from feelings and fears about change, there are some arguments that circulate, and it would be helpful perhaps to name them more explicitly. This will be very partial and fragmentary, and I do not expect to "prove" anything. My hope is that more of the debate could be empirically grounded and less emotional, and that there could be more text and less subtext. So here are some more-or-less substantive themes in criticism of missing middle housing. Maybe you will be able to extend the analysis or, if you remain a critic of missing middle housing, maybe you can sharpen your criticism. Housing is complicated, there are bits we don't understand, and it's probably not very wise to be too dogmatic about it.
Models of Change
One of the biggest themes is there seems to be two models of neighborhood change floating around:
- Abrupt and disruptive change linked to Big Developer
- Gradual change and filtering linked to smaller developers
|Eugene criticism of HB 2001|
|A Salem FB discussion|
|A Portland twitter thread on HB 2001|
On the disruptive theory, Big Developer comes in and just clearcuts old homes.
If clear-cutting is really a significant threat, then policies could be adopted to incent more gradual change or to make clear-cutting more expensive. Legalizing missing middle housing isn't itself the problem; any problem would be the sudden, catastrophic change from clear-cutting. Policy could address that. (But see at bottom for some evidence from right here that the threat of clear-cutting is overstated.)
Price-Setting and Markets
Related to the viability of Big Developer clear-cutting, there seems to be two models of price-setting:
- A kind of last in/first out pricing, in which the costs and then selling price of the most recent housing constructed in a market set the price for all other housing
- A more dynamic market in which buyers and sellers negotiate, and in which adding expensive housing does filter and help with affordable housing
|Andersen researches housing policy at Sightline|
|The Eugene criticism of HB 2001|
|from an economist, via Twitter|
|City Observatory weighs in via Twitter|
Zuk & Chapple study, UC Berkeley here
I'm not sure I have seen a lot of it here, but in Eugene there is a weird current for the revival of "Projects." In form, they aren't the "tower in the park" Pruitt Igoe configuration that has been essentially repudiated now, but in function they operate similarly, to insulate established neighborhoods from poor people. It is a modern warehousing approach. The greenwash is that clustering large complexes of affordable housing on large arterials with frequent service transit is most efficient.
|Again, the Eugene cricisim|
It also ignores ways that more distributed subsidized housing is more just, is better on crime, is better for social mobility.
A Theory of Flight and Longer Commutes
Is this really just, "I'm going to pick up my toys and abandon the sandbox"?
|From Eugene - note fear of flight to "outlying commuter town"|
More than that, it's the "quality of life" they think will deteriorate. A Salemite does invoke "white flight."
|A Salem FB discussion|
I think this theory of flight is overstated.
An Example here in Salem
|Almost the whole of Sleepy Hollow is zoned RM2|
(City of Salem Zoning map)
|via Twitter and the Sightline piece|