Lawmakers in Arlington County, Virginia voted to effectively end single-family zoning in the city last week, in order to pave the way for more multifamily housing development in the “missing middle,” the housing stock in between single-family homes and larger apartment buildings. Arlington’s County Board voted to approve a housing plan that will make it easier to build multi-unit housing in the region, including townhomes, duplexes, and smaller buildings with up to six residential units on lots that had previously allowed just single-family homes to be built. The development comes as cities around the country are considering reforming their zoning policies to allow more multifamily housing, as the housing affordability crisis worsens. In 2018, Minneapolis, Minnesota, became the first major city in the country to end single-family zoning when it passed a long-term housing plan called Minneapolis 2040.
Arlington County has a population of about 233,000 and is located just outside Washington, D.C. While the area has built multifamily housing around transit stations, that density falls significantly in areas further away from mass transit lines. While the new housing plan doesn’t mean there will be no new single-family homes developed, it does mean that neighborhoods that previously banned anything other than single-family homes will now be opened up to other kinds of housing. Arlington’s success in getting the housing plan passed is significant, considering the tough road many cities have had in garnering support for building more multifamily in areas where single-family is the dominant housing type. The new ordinance might be further proof that NIMBYism is on the decline.