February 7, 2015

Integrating multi-family housing into single-family neighborhoods.

The photos in this post show how to integrate multi-family housing into single-family neighborhoods. The two-story duplexes fit in easily and look like two-story single family homes. These buildings fit here partly because they are well-designed and consistent with the architectural character of the neighborhood. They also have the same front yard and side yard setbacks as the single family homes as well as detached garages. It's possible that a four plex of a similar size would also fit in easily, but that would depend on the neighborhood.  There's no good reason to start inserting too much density into a single-family neighborhood when there are other parts of the city that can more easily accommodate it. The images here just show that, if the community supports it, adding some modest density in single family neighborhoods can be done well. 

Cities planning new subdivisions should consider this sort of mixed density as a way of integrating different economic and social groups into neighborhoods. Definitely a better idea than large apartment complexes cordoned off from single-family by arterial streets and better than plopping a large apartment building right next to a single family home.  


 

 
 
 

6 comments:

Paul Fritz said...

The community I live in allows second units/granny units which is another way to allow for increased density and housing diversity in existing single-family neighborhoods. You are currently allowed to build a max. 840 sf 1 bedroom unit in most single-family neighborhoods. My neighbor built 1 about 10 years ago that has housed a single-mom and daughter. I'd proposed even allowing up to 1,000 sf/2 bedrooms given certain lot sizes and max. allowable lot coverage. This is how we'll create affordable housing in a community with a median house price of around $620,000.

Alan said...

The neighborhood I grew up in (eastern Wauwatosa, Wisconsin, a Milwaukee streetcar suburb) is chock-full of these too.

Alan said...

I grew up in eastern Wauwatosa, Wisconsin, a streetcar suburb of Milwaukee, and there were a great deal of duplexes mixed in with the single-families, even some early post-war ones. One is a double-length ranch house.

They were essentially unnoticeable.

Virginia Postrel said...

The conflict comes when these are the only lots in the neighborhood that are zoned multifamily and someone wants to tear down a couple of duplexes to build something larger that will come up to the sidewalk. A decade or so ago, someone bought the three such buildings across from my condo complex with plans to build something like the buildings on our side of the street and further down the block on that side. The neighbors raised a stink, even though the plans were in line with zoning, and managed to throw up enough barriers that the project was dropped. Presto, less multiunit housing in the neighborhood. I enjoy the view from my butt-ugly building built in more tolerant times, but it doesn't seem like a socially desirable outcome.

Patrick Prescott said...

Virginia, you see the challenge of building more housing in places where it's zoned for it. Imagine the difficulty of changing the zoning to allow it.

Patrick Prescott said...

Virginia, you see the challenge of building more housing in places where it's zoned for it. Imagine the difficulty of changing the zoning to allow it.