Missing Middle Construction Still Missing

The missing middle construction sector includes development of medium-density housing, including townhouses, duplexes and other small multifamily properties.

While townhouse construction has trended higher in recent quarters, the multifamily segment of the missing middle (apartments in 2 to 4 unit properties) has disappointed. For 2021, there were only 12,000 starts of such residences. This is flat from from 2020, during a period of time when most market segments expanded.

Despite a hint of accelerated construction in March 2022, this class of multifamily missing middle was flat to start the year. For the first quarter of 2022, there were just 4,000 2 to 4 unit housing unit construction starts. That’s even with the first quarter of 2021 and actually finds that the trailing four-quarter period was 7% lower than the year prior.

As a share of all multifamily production, 2 to 4 unit development is only 3.2% of the total. In contrast, from 2000 to 2010, such home construction made up a little less than 11% of total multifamily construction. Construction of the missing middle has clearly lagged during the post-Great Recession period and will continue to do so without zoning reform focused on light-touch density.

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