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We want to provide more housing options for all people. If you’re a renter, please take this quick survey to help us. Take the survey at this link.

The deadline for participation is Friday, August 11. Please help us spread by sharing this with your family and friends.

Renter’s Survey Link

Missing Middle Housing Study Open House Feedback – If you were not able to make the public open house on Friday, August 4, 2023, you can view the materials and provide comments to the open house posters here. Comments may be provided by scanning any of the QR codes on the bottom right of any of the posters, or by clicking this link. Deadline for comments to the Missing Middle Housing open house posters is 5 p.m. on Friday, August 11, 2023.



In 2022, Asheville’s City Council allocated $85,000 in one-time funding to the FY 2022-23 budget for a Missing Middle Housing study. The Department of Planning and Urban Design (PUD) will conduct the study in collaboration with the Department of Community and Economic Development (CED), which contributed $30,000 to expand the scope of the study to include a Displacement Risk Analysis. The purpose of the study is to identify regulatory or policy barriers that negatively impact the production of housing supply and to develop recommendations to help Asheville prioritize next steps to better align regulations with city goals. 

On February 28, 2023, the Asheville City Council approved Opticos Design, Inc and Cascadia Partners as the consultants for the project that is expected to take approximately one year. 

The consultant team has extensive experience in missing middle housing assessments and community engagement. Project milestones will be reviewed by an Advisory Working Group composed of participants from a diverse range of community members. 

Project tasks will include the following:

  • Review of current policy and background documents
  • Gathering of input from the community 
  • Review of zoning standards
  • Public engagement
  • Analysis of barriers/challenges
  • Feasibility analysis
  • Displacement Risk Assessment report
  • Missing Middle Housing study report

The City of Asheville has encouraged changes to support the regulatory environment for residential construction in recent years by updating the Unified Development Ordinance (UDO). The following text amendments encouraged residential infill development:

ADUs and Lot Width/Frontage Standards

Text amendments to the UDO included changes in 2015 to Sec. 7-14-1(b)(3) Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs), and changes to multiple residential zoning districts in 2017. These changes acknowledged the restrictiveness of the ordinances, as written, in relation to accessory dwelling unit size and the required lot dimensions for residential construction. While these changes were warranted, they were incremental in nature. The Missing Middle Housing study will provide a more comprehensive review of housing-related policies and regulations to provide considerable research to support broader changes.

Comprehensive Plan and City Council Strategic Goals

Living Asheville: A Comprehensive Plan for our Future was adopted by the City of Asheville in 2018. The comprehensive plan is a tool, required by state law, that guides growth and development informed by extensive community input and engagement. Living Asheville emphasizes the need for housing affordability. While the Missing Middle Housing study supports the implementation of policies that promote infill development and diversity in housing supply, there is no assurance that results will provide affordable housing. Nevertheless, research suggests that Missing Middle Housing can help to provide a greater supply of smaller units that tend to be less expensive, and housing supply itself may lower housing costs across the board.

Living Asheville is organized into guiding principles, themes and goals. The Missing Middle Housing study aligns with the following: 

In addition, the study supports City Council’s Equitable & Affordable Housing & Stability strategic goal. 

What is “Missing Middle Housing?” 

“Missing middle housing” refers to housing types, such as duplexes, triplexes or townhomes, that can be said to have largely been missing from the residential housing market over the last 70 years. You can describe middle residential as housing types that live in the middle of two common and well known housing options: Single-family homes and large-scale multi-family housing apartment buildings.

In most cities across the United States, zoning regulations dictate the land uses permitted in zoning districts. For example, two-thirds of all neighborhoods in Asheville only allow single-family homes, generally called single-family zoning, which is most commonly presented as detached housing as shown on the left in the image above. The Missing Middle refers to the housing typologies that allow for more variation and diversity of housing, such as duplexes, triplexes, townhouses, courtyard apartments, and small multiplexes. These housing types are of similar scale to detached single-family housing and fit within a neighborhood context. 

In Asheville, multiple factors impact the city’s housing supply flexibility, including mountainous terrain, which increases construction costs and can reduce project feasibility. Yet the mountains are part of the city’s increasing desirability, which contributes to significant in-migration. Undertaking a study that identifies housing barriers, especially barriers that inhibit the Missing Middle, will help Asheville to better understand where to prioritize and implement actual changes to the code to better align regulations with stated goals.   

Why “Missing Middle Housing?” 

Housing Gaps and Limitations on Growth Boundaries

According to the Asheville, North Carolina Region Housing Needs Assessment report–most often referred to as the Bowen Report–the Asheville region, which includes Buncombe,  Henderson, Madison, and Transylvania Counties, faces housing gaps. At the time of the report, 84 multi-family rental housing projects, both market rate and subsidized, were surveyed within Asheville, and of the 10,614 combined units, 97.2 percent were occupied, which is a high occupancy rate demonstrating limited multi-family apartment options, especially when taken into consideration of the area’s projected population growth of 7.6 percent by 2024. 

Vacancy rates in the region are relatively low, which means there is low rental availability, when compared to the vacancy rates in more balanced real estate markets. Similar to communities nationwide, Asheville is experiencing challenges associated with housing affordability, which can be argued to be largely the result of the limited availability of housing stock. Nevertheless, expensive housing can be attributed to other factors such as the heavy influence of Asheville’s tourism and related second-home purchases. 

The City of Asheville has limited authority to annex land into its municipal boundaries. As a result, Infill development–the act of building on unused or underused land located within the existing built environment–is the only real way to increase housing supply. Understanding that more homes within the city can change the character of neighborhoods, the study will consider the massing, scale and character of existing neighborhoods as part of the research. 

Population Growth and Demographic Shifts

According to the Bowen Report, Asheville is experiencing changes in its demography, and is expected to undergo a shift among three age demographics: the 25- to 34-year, 55- to 64-year, and 75 and above age cohorts. Growth among such a broad range of age groups creates a need for housing diversity. As summarized in the Bowen Report, per data collected in 2019, the region has several housing supply challenges, including insufficient rental housing, a diminished for-sale housing supply affordable to moderate income households, and the need to accommodate the projected growth of the senior population. 

The Missing Middle Housing study will review these many issues to provide the community with the information necessary to make better comprehensive decisions about housing policy, which will inform future changes of the city development code.  


Supporting Documents

Bowen Report

Initial Request for Qualifications (RFQ)

Staff report to Council – February 28, 2023

Council Resolution to approve Missing Middle Housing Study Contract – February 28, 2023



February 20, 2023 – City Council’s Planning & Economic Development (PED) committee review

February 28, 2023 – City Council approves the Missing Middle Housing study contract

April 26, 2023 – Public Presentation: Building Our City Speaker Series: Missing Middle Housing, 5:30-7PM, The Collider, 1 Haywood St, 4th Floor, Asheville, NC 28801

Upcoming: Friday, August 4, 2023 – Free Public Workshop in an open-house format for learning and sharing ideas. Participants may attend anytime between 4-7PM, Harrah’s Cherokee Center, Banquet Hall, 87 Haywood Street, Asheville, NC 28801

Contact Information

Candra Teshome
Department of Planning & Urban Design




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Planning and Urban Design

The Planning and Urban Design Department provides sound, professional land use planning, zoning, urban design and historic preservation and other services to achieve livable and sustainable neighborhoods for everyone. The department is committed to collaborating with our community on its vision for equitable growth and development consistent with Asheville’s adopted plans.  Learn more about department services, [...]