missing middle housing

Is Missing Middle Housing the Answer to Victoria’s Housing Issues?

Uptake of the Missing Middle Housing Initiative is Off to a Slow Start

Victoria, BC, has been hailed as ambitious for its adoption of the progressive Missing Middle Housing Initiative in early 2023.

The initiative, which was approved in January after more than two years of research and consultation, aims to make it easier for developers to create multi-home developments that bridge the gap between apartments and single-family homes. The ultimate goal is to enable young families that are currently priced out of the single-family home market to achieve the dream of home ownership and remain living in and contributing to the city.

The Missing Middle Initiative removes the requirement for City approval for multi-unit plans on land previously zoned for single-family homes only, streamlining the process for these types of development to create a gentle density increase within residential areas.

As BC Government looks to introduce similar rules province-wide to help with the ongoing housing shortage, it seems, on paper anyway, that this initiative could make a positive impact on increasing the variety of housing available to buyers.

So why, a few months into the initiative, have no missing middle housing projects broken ground?

As Victoria’s premier appraisal service, D. Fritz prides itself on being up to date with all the housing market changes and developments in Greater Victoria. Missing middle housing promises to increase the pool of housing options for families who otherwise may feel they have to move away to achieve homeownership.

Read on for more information about what missing middle housing is, what the missing middle initiative aims to achieve, and what’s next for the missing middle in Victoria, BC.

What is Missing Middle Housing?

Missing middle housing is defined as a range of multiple-unit homes that are located in and are compatible with existing single-family home neighbourhoods.

Missing middle houses can be multi-plexes (duplex, triplex or fourplex) or townhome developments and are designed to bridge the gap between apartment living and single-family homes. These types of homes provide more diversity in the range of homeownership options, especially for young families who cannot afford to get into the single-family home housing market in Victoria.

According to the City of Victoria’s Missing Middle Housing Initiative, data shows that young people are leaving Victoria when they choose to start a family, in part because they cannot find affordable housing to meet their changing needs. By creating low-level, sympathetic density infill, missing middle housing will provide these families with the opportunity to enter homeownership and remain in the city.

Missing Middle Housing Initiative Purpose

The Missing Middle Housing Initiative was approved in January after two years of consultation, with the aim of making it easier to build alternatives to traditional single-family housing in Victoria.

The purpose of the initiative and its policies, which came into effect in March of 2023, is to:

  • Make it easier and faster to build multi-unit developments on what was previously single-family zoned land by removing the requirement for re-zoning applications.
  • Protect heritage or future heritage buildings by allowing low-density in-fill on the same plot.
  • Provide more housing choices within walkable, family-oriented neighbourhoods without impacting the aesthetics and feel of the area.

The initiative allows house-plexes, corner townhomes and heritage in-fill housing to be built on traditional single-family plots. Up to 6 houses can be built per plot without the need to re-zone. Missing middle developments must meet certain design and bylaw criteria, but overall the process will be faster and cheaper for developers.

Is the Initiative Showing Signs of Success?

The City of Victoria council has admitted that take up of the initiative has been slow so far, with some early feedback suggesting that this is because the cost to purchase land and develop multi-unit homes is too high for the projected return. It remains quicker and easier for developers to replace an older single-family home with a new one and also make a bigger profit than they would with a multi-home development. While this remains the case, missing middle housing may never expand as hoped.

However, while costs seem prohibitive currently, there are signs that developers want to divert to this type of project. Some recently completed multi-family developments, such as this one in James Bay, are positive examples of infill projects similar to those being encouraged by the Missing Middle Housing Initiative. 

This particular project was started before the initiative was passed and, as such, would have gone through many more bureaucratic loops before approval than would be required now. As the Missing Middle Housing Initiative takes a lot of these steps away, the future could be positive for developers with forward-thinking ideas like this.

What’s Next for the Missing Middle?

With the principle behind missing middle housing being lauded as one solution to the housing crisis and the likelihood of provincial uptake of some parts of the initiative, it is unlikely this approach will be completely rescinded. However, some additional changes and support may be required on a local and provincial level to help ensure its success.

Victoria City Council is already planning a review of the initiative, and further consultation with developers will likely be required to ensure processes and procedures support them in choosing to invest in and build this type of housing.

In June, Council also passed a motion tasking staff to track city policies that disincentivize the building of new ‘attached homes’ rather than single-family homes. This work will overlap and possibly feed into the future development of the Missing Middle Housing Initiative.

D. Fritz Appraisals for All Your Home Appraisal Needs

Whether you are looking to sell a home, purchase a new home, or are considering investing in a missing middle development, D. Fritz can help with all your appraisal needs.

With over 40 years of experience in the Victoria housing market, we can provide accurate and current valuations based on what the market is doing now and where it might go in the future.

We provide professional real estate appraisals from our home base in Victoria to Nanaimo and the Gulf Islands, and our team is approved for most banks, credit unions and private lenders. Contact us today to request your real estate appraisal.