Conduct a study and implement any necessary Zoning Code amendments to support the expansion of Missing Middle Housing types, including Accessory Dwelling Units, in lower density residential areas. A primary goal should be to meet the needs of long-term residents and increase access to affordable housing.

  • Missing Middle Housing is defined as a range of house-scale buildings with multiple units – compatible in scale and form with detached single-family homes – located in a walkable neighborhood.
  • Oakland has an existing mix of these diverse housing types and price points, such as multiplexes, cottage apartments, and small-scale apartment/condo buildings.
  • Many long-term Oakland residents appreciate the scale and character of the areas of Central Oakland east of Dawson, South Oakland, and West Oakland that have a mix of attached and detached homes, multiplexes, and smaller-scale apartment buildings.
  • Many “missing middle” housing types currently present in Oakland pre-date the City’s first Zoning Code. Many exist in Oakland’s single-family residential zoning districts where they are not allowed as of right. Because they pre-date the zoning code, most large homes used as multiple units do not have certificates of occupancy for more than one unit and require ZBA approval for pre-existing nonconforming use. In many cases, evidence is vague or nonexistent.
  • Long-term residents have consistently expressed the desire to increase the number of long-term residents in the neighborhood. More homeowners or long-term renters would increase the sense of community, contribute to maintaining the place, help provide a year-round market for grocery stores and other services, and hopefully bring more children and families back to the neighborhood.
  • Additionally, advocates for Pittsburgh’s LGBTQ senior community highlighted that Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) should be legalizes as part of this effort. The AARP has determined that ADUs are an important part of meeting senior housing needs which have been inadequately addressed by current housing markets and historic housing typologies. They note that by 2030, 1 in 5 people in the United States will be age 65 or over — and by 2035, older adults are projected to outnumber children for the first time.
  • Input during the planning process shows interest in making careful adjustments to the zoning in these areas to allow a greater variety of smaller scale housing options to be built as-of-right. The careful application of zoning regulation and programming may support the goal of increasing long-term residents in these areas, but is not guaranteed to do so.
  • Three groups were identified as having needs that could be served through “missing middle” housing types: seniors, young professional, and lower-income families.
  • Missing middle housing types may also support the attraction of households with children, which is an important goal for many in Oakland.
  • This discussion is consistent with cities throughout the country who are reassessing and sometimes eliminating single-family zoning, particularly in response to a lack of affordable housing. In many of these cities, proposals are an attempt to address historic exclusionary housing policies that sought to exclude racial and socioeconomic groups from areas.
  • Oakland stakeholders are conscious that any additional units enabled through regulatory changes could serve the demand for speculative rentals aimed at the undergraduate student market. In this case, adding housing units would increase parking impacts without dealing with affordability issues. There is also hesitancy to allow more density for fear that it will result in the demolition of homes that are replaced by higher cost housing.
  • Smaller scale housing solutions could work nicely with programs already present in Oakland, such as the Oakland Community Land Trust, which ensures permanent owner occupancy and permanent affordability.

  • Identify changes to base zoning or the use of an overlay district to allow for missing middle housing typologies to be added to specific areas of Oakland. This could be done as part of a citywide project to achieve the same outcome, although individual markets are likely to vary and need to be studied.
  • Identify the new housing typologies that would be possible including their design, accessibility, market feasibility, and how they could be combined with other affordability provisions such as mandatory Inclusionary Zoning. Affordability of units for specific markets as identified above should be a key criteria for success.
  • Incorporate Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) in this work. During the planning process, many stakeholders including long-term residents in West and South Oakland (east of Bates Street), and advocates for Pittsburgh’s LGBTQ senior community suggested that ADUs could meet a variety of housing needs not addressed today while supporting housing stabilization efforts by potentially providing rental income to existing homeowners. ADUs should only be allowed for owner-occupied housing.
  • Analyze how different approaches to standards can push housing outcomes more towards ownership or rental depending on community desire in an area.
  • Review and analyze how dimensional variances have been used by recent projects to create missing middle typologies.
  • Also consider the impact of such provisions on existing housing stock and determine how they can be addressed. For example, would such provisions support anti-displacement efforts for existing long-term residents who may be able to subdivide housing legally to generate passive income from rents? How would these provisions positively or negatively impact the decades long trend of property owners illegally subdividing homes and renting the entire structure to students? How can standards be written to support the reuse of existing buildings in ways that support maintaining neighborhood character and affordability vs. driving up property values? Finally, how do such provisions relate to the creation of flag lots or other subdivision typologies that may or not be desirable from an urban form perspective.
  • Connect the housing typologies with current or new affordability programs within Oakland and citywide in connection with the City’s new Housing Needs Assessment.
  • Ensure there is a clear linkage between allowing new housing types and OPDC’s Community Land Trust, work towards housing cooperatives in West Oakland, or efforts by the institutions to create more affordable housing that is suitable for employees to walk to work. This will help to ensure that new housing is affordable and/or meets a clear present need that is actively being addressed by local partners.
  • Consider how parking should be regulated for new structures and existing structures that are converted to more units to avoid increasing existing on-street parking issues.
  • Study the potential for such provisions to have a positive impact on energy efficiency, stormwater management, and other aspects of sustainability in the built environment. For example, can there be energy efficiency and on-site solar requirements or incentives? How does this scale of housing work with the recently updated Stormwater Code?
  • Finally, establish programs and other proactive efforts to create pathways for local minority, immigrant, and women-owned businesses to produce these housing types. Their scale makes them more feasible for newer developers with less access to financing.
  • Strategies to preserve missing middle type housing should be addressed.
  • Study needs to consider how changes to allow ADUs and other additional units is related to the specifics of Oakland's market conditions and intense investor speculation. Homeowners should have the benefit of the extra unit to support wealth building and to provide an affordable housing unit. Linkage to the Oakland Community Land Trust is one way to mitigate this. Other mechanisms should also be identified.

When to start: 3-5 years

Duration: 1 year

Estimated costs: $$ (out of $$$$)

Project lead(s): DCP

Project partner(s): None needed

Potential funding source(s): City Capital Budget, grants

Examples, illustrations, data