SCAC Position Paper on Missing Middle Senior Housing

 January 25, 2017 – SCAC Report to Montclair Housing Commission on Missing Middle Housing

  1. Overview

There is a critical need for the Township to develop a comprehensive plan to accommodate the needs of aging residents who want to age in place in Montclair. Missing Middle housing described herein is the best housing alternative for meeting the needs of those empty nester homeowners who are committed to aging in place in Montclair.

For many years, the Senior Citizen Advisory Committee (SCAC) has conducted ongoing research regarding appropriate housing options to meet the needs of its senior residents. Our 2013 comprehensive survey clearly concluded, through both anecdotal and statistical data analysis, that a majority of Montclair’s senior population had doubts about living here after retirement, largely because of inappropriate housing options and the rising costs therein.

Based upon data collected in its 2013 survey, the SCAC informed the Township leadership that the continuous flight of senior residents to nearby towns is a risk to the financial and cultural stability of Montclair.   To be sure, Montclair has sought ways to comply with State guidelines for affordable housing and thereby address some of the needs of senior residents, but these measures do not address the most pressing needs of the majority of the target population. Survey data clearly showed that the Montclair population most challenged by inappropriate housing choices are the empty nester homeowners.

Those survey results, a wake-up call to the Township, gave rise to several tangible quality of life improvements for Montclair seniors, to whit:

  1. Creation of a Municipal Division of Senior Services/Lifelong Montclair and hiring a Division Director
  2. Allocation of Township funding to create an Interim Senior Communications Hub
  3. Allocation of funding to expand programming and supportive services for seniors
  4. Approval for Township participation in the W.H.O. Age-friendly Certification program:

4a. Which, in turn, gave rise to an Action Plan intent on identifying ways to             implement the W.H.O.’s 8 Domains of Livability, one of which is housing.

In the next three years, the percentage of Montclair residents over the age of 60 is approaching 20%. A plan attentive to the development of Missing Middle housing will help the Township maintain age and economic diversity.

As a community aspiring to adhere to the 8 Domains of Livability required by the WHO Age-Friendliness Certification, Montclair must place a priority on development of appropriate and new age-friendly housing. This imperative is reinforced by several realities:

  1. Baby Boomers are retiring at the rate of 10,000 a day; the percentage of retirees in Montclair, currently near 20%, will only grown larger in a few short years.
  2. The American grandparent economy is responsible for consumption of more than $2 trillion in goods and services annually. With this in mind, retention of current residents as well as attraction of new seniors should be a central part of the Town’s economic development planning.
  3. Age-friendly communities have healthy, walkable, and connected neighborhoods that improve the quality of life, not to mention the quality of the air.

Like the U.S. Department of Aging, the SCAC uses age 60 as its threshold age for inclusion as seniors; but the U.S. Census uses the age of 65. So, 2011-2015 U.S. Census Data tells us that the Township assesses taxes on 1,694 owner occupied householders who are over age 65.   Allowing for the difference in age threshold between the U.S. Census and the U.S. Department of Aging, , 1,700 householders is a decent reference point for assessing the potential market scale for missing middle housing. 

  1. Missing Middle Housing In Brief

Missing Middle Housing is not a new type of building. It is a range of building types that already exist in cities and towns across the country, and were a fundamental building block in pre-1940s neighborhoods.

Combined together (and sometimes even with single-family homes), Missing Middle building types create a moderate density that can support public transit as well as other services and amenities within walking distance, One can see the development of Missing Middle Housing in some of the most popular up-and-coming communities in Denver, Cincinnati, Austin, and San Francisco. 

  1. Types of Missing Middle Dwellings:
  • Duplex Side-by-side
  • Duplex: Stacked
  • Bungalow Court (see Pocket Neighborhoods in Appendix below)
  • Carriage House
  • Four-plex
  • Multiplex – Small
  • Townhouse
  • Live/Work Unit
  • Courtyard Apartments
  1. How Addition of Missing Middle Housing Benefits Township and Residents:

It is our contention that the missing middle development approach will benefit all of the stakeholders:

Township: In the case of a single family lot which currently generates $20k in annual taxes, creation of 3 or 4 new missing middle units on the same plot of land could hypothetically generate $32k in annual taxes.

Developers: In the case of developers who participate in this project, investment risk will be lowered and, by virtual of bureaucratic fast tracking, costs will be lowered too.

Seniors: By virtue of simpler, more efficient construction footprints and shared maintenance strategies inherent in missing middle guidelines, each unit cost will be fixed at a lower price point. Therefore, householder expectations for monthly upkeep as well as annual tax burden will be predictably lower and relatively controllable.


  1. Obviously, senior “empty nest” residents do not send their children to public schools. Therefore, it costs the Township less to support the needs of these residents.
  2. Empty nesters represent an important donor class for most charitable endeavors in small towns, especially in home-rule communities. As federal and state dollars dry up, it is this donor class that supports countless quality of life services that are managed by Houses of Worship, civic groups and the public library.
  3. Senior residents give back to the community by volunteering their time and expertise.
  4. If Missing Middle Housing were to be set up as small co-ops, with each unit sold individually on a plot of land where a single family dwelling originally stood, the Township tax rolls would increase.
  5. If Missing Middle units were sold rather than rented, the developer would get back his/her investment immediately, thus reducing overall risk and ultimately the price of the project.
  6. Small co-op’s are more able to manage themselves through a Committee of the Whole, thus lowering maintenance cost by eliminating need for a management company and making these units more affordable for individuals with fixed monthly incomes.
  7. Small co-op’s, by virtue of their financial nimbleness, are in a better position to leverage discounts from local service providers (e.g. plumbers, electricians, landscapers, etc).
  8. Every Town needs to increase its tax base, hopefully with minimal increases to infrastructure costs (e.g. extra burdens on water/gas mains, fire department etc.). Small density projects tend to add relatively small incremental stress to the infrastructure, spreading the increase in residency more gently so that the original aesthetic of the neighborhood can be sustained.
  9. A plan attentive to the development of Missing Middle housing will allow a percentage of empty nesters to free up their single family homes for sale to new populations of young families. This helps maintain the Township’s age and economic diversity.
  1. Missing Middle Common Features
  • Walkable Context: Missing Middle housing types are best located in a walkable context. Buyers and renters of these housing types are often trading square footage for proximity to services and amenities. Development patterns in walkable urban neighborhoods make walking and biking convenient and support robust public transit.
  • Small-Footprint Buildings: These housing types typically have small- to medium-sized footprints, with a body width, depth, and height no larger than a single-family home. This allows a range of Missing Middle types—with varying densities but compatible forms—to be blended into a neighborhood, encouraging a mix of socioeconomic households and making these types a good tool for compatible infill.
  • Lower Perceived Density: Due to the small footprint of the building types and the fact that they are usually mixed with a variety of building types even on an individual block, the perceived density of these types is usually quite low—they do not look like dense buildings.

But one of the primary benefits of Missing Middle is that the neighborhood densities are often higher than 16 dwelling units per acre (du/acre) —the threshold needed to create a supportive environment for transit and neighborhood-serving main streets.

  • Smaller, Well-Designed Units

Most Missing Middle housing types have smaller unit sizes. The challenge is to create small spaces that are well designed, comfortable, and usable. The ultimate unit size will depend on the context, but smaller-sized units can help developers keep their costs down and attract a different market of buyers and renters who are not being provided for in all markets.

  • Fewer Off-street Parking Spaces: Because they are built in walkable neighborhoods with proximity to transportation options and commercial amenities, Missing Middle housing types should not provide more than one parking space per unit.

If more off-street parking is provided, buildings typically become very inefficient from the perspective of development potential or yield standpoint, and the additional space needed on the lot drops neighborhoods below the 16 du/acre density threshold. In addition, large, unattractive areas of paved parking should be seen as being just as incompatible with residential contexts as larger buildings.

  • Simple Construction: Missing Middle Housing is simply constructed (Type V), which makes them a very attractive alternative for developers to achieve good densities without the added financing challenges and risk of more complex construction types. This aspect can also increase affordability when units are sold or rented.

As providing single family detached sub- $200,000 starter homes is becoming more and more out of reach for builders across the country, Missing Middle can provide an attractive and affordable alternative starter home.

  • Creates Community: Missing Middle Housing creates community through the integration of shared community spaces within the building type (e.g. bungalow court ), or simply from being located within a vibrant neighborhood with places to eat, drink, walk and socialize.

This is an important aspect in particular considering the growing market of single-person households (nearly 30% of all households) that want to be part of a community.

  • Marketable: Because of the increasing demand from baby boomers and millennials, as well as shifting household demographics, the market is demanding more vibrant, sustainable, walkable places to live. These Missing Middle housing types respond directly to this demand.

In addition, the scale of these housing types makes them more attractive to many buyers who want to live in a walkable neighborhood, but may not want to live in a large condominium or apartment building.

[for more information consult ]

Other Creative Housing Models

  1. University-Based Retirement Communities (UBRC’s)

In 2006, Andrew Carle, who founded George Mason University’s program in senior housing administration, coined the term “university-based retirement communities” — or UBRC’s for short — to describe retirement communities that have a formal or informal relationship to a nearby university, and as a result, offer their residents academic benefits that others cannot.

  1. Cohousing: NYU version

Under a new NYU plan, cash-strapped students will get a break on rent, and seniors will get extra cash. NYU will partner with University Settlement, a Lower East Side nonprofit that provides social services to low-income seniors. Scenario One: student gets free private bedrooms in a senior facility in exchange for 20 hours a week doing light housekeeping, grocery shopping and giving computer lessons.

  1. Group Family Living

People from some cultures, especially Asians, African-Americans, and Latinos, are more accustomed to group family living than are non-Hispanic whites. According to a survey by national homebuilder Pulte Group, 32 percent of adult children say they expect to share their home someday with a parent.

Developers are taking note. In 2011, the Lennar Corporation unveiled NextGen, a model that’s like two homes in one. Each home has its own kitchen, living room, entrance, and garage, but the dwellings are attached by an interior door that can be kept open or closed. The idea is that an older parent or in-law (or a surly teen) can live in the smaller space, the adult child’s family in the other. The multi-gen model, priced from $200,000 to more than $1,000,000, is now in 15 states and 200 communities.


Other References:

An overview:

On-campus housing:



Pocket Neighborhoods:

LGBT Housing:

Arts-housing/interest group housing: