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Atlanta zoning updates could pave way for more ‘missing middle’ housing

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Revisions may also help shift the city from its car-centric ways

A picture of the community after major remodels
Listings described as middle housing in Kirkwood hit the market for less than $300,000 last year.
Engel & Völkers

If Atlanta leaders hope to keep up with the impending population boom—the city’s headcount is expected to double over the next 20 years—plenty of changes will be needed.

A good place to start when gearing up for inevitable densification, of course, is the city’s zoning code.

As a means of being proactive, Atlanta officials recently adopted a number of zoning updates that could prepare the city proper to swell from 500,000 people to roughly 1 million in the next two decades.

One of the major changes could pave the way for more “middle housing” to be built, according to Congress for the New Urbanism.

Middle housing, which has been called Atlanta’s “missing middle,” is defined as “the middle ground between single-family houses and multistory apartments,” according to Beltline visionary Ryan Gravel, who has lamented the lack of such options.

In the same vein, the recently adopted zoning changes could also help shift Atlanta from its car-centric ways.

The revisions amend regulations so that buildings built before 1965 no longer have parking requirements (unless they have a liquor license), and loading requirements are reduced citywide.

On top of that, parking is no longer required for new developments built within a half mile of transit lines, such as MARTA’s heavy rail or streetcar systems.

The zoning updates also expand where accessory dwelling units—tiny homes—can be built, meaning they’re now legal in about half of the city.

If more middle housing—such as “traditional townhomes, row-houses, and brownstones”—finds its way to Atlanta, neighborhoods would see an increase in density and diversity, Gravel has written.

Additionally, bunching together diverse groups of people can pay other dividends, such as better retail and grocery options or more funding for transit projects.