Incentives for "Missing Middle" Home Ownership

Background: Racially exclusionary zoning practices, such as redlining, which barred people of color from buying homes in many neighborhoods, and discriminatory loan practices that limited home financing opportunities for people of color, made it difficult for people of color to buy and own homes in places across the country, including Edmonds.


Home ownership is one of the main way families are able to build inter-generational wealth, and centuries of these racially discriminatory practices have contributed to a wealth and home ownership gap between white people and people of color. One tool for addressing these past inequities is providing equitable pathways to home ownership through expanding attainable smaller housing options. Tools that correct inequities also provide opportunity for all people.


A way to increase the supply of smaller housing options is through allowing ‘missing middle’ housing types. Missing middle is a term that includes house-scale buildings with multiple units in walkable neighborhoods. These units, such as duplexes, would have scale and character similar to single-family homes. Through the adoption of a form-based code (which requires design standards and regulates the maximum building size and ratio of building to lot size without specifying the number of units), a well-designed building that’s the size of a large home could provide more than one home without changing the single-family scale, look, and feel of a home.


Policy Proposal:​ Develop incentives that apply to "missing middle" housing types citywide that allow home ownership for those at or below average median family income.

Equity Housing Options

Background: In Edmonds, lots within single-family residential zones can have only one house on them, which includes any allowed accessory dwellings. The house can be of any size as long as it fits the lot requirements and height limits for that zone. Currently duplexes are not allowed in single-family residential zones.

Note: Changes to the current guidelines would require a zoning code amendment, which includes a public process


Policy Proposal:​ Encourage racial equity housing options by developing design requirements and zoning changes that allow for home-ownership of two attached single family homes (duplex or two-unit townhouses) in lieu of one large house in single family residential areas city-wide.

Medium-Density Single Family Housing (SR-MD)

Policy Proposal:​ Establish a new zoning type of single-family housing that allows for construction of zero-lot line duplexes, triplexes, and quadruplexes of only 1- or 2-story height located in specified areas of Edmonds that are:

  • Contiguous to or along high-volume transit routes, or

  • Sited next to Neighborhood Business (BN) zoning districts, or

  • Close to schools or medical complexes

Detached Accessory Dwelling Units

Background: The City of Edmonds currently allows each house to have an “accessory dwelling” (a small, additional living unit) on a residential lot if it is attached to or part of the main house.  Some cities also allow homeowners the option to have a “detached” accessory dwelling (also known as a “backyard cottage”) instead of an attached unit.  Whether attached or detached, the accessory dwelling must meet community standards for size, lot placement, ownership, parking, etc.


Policy Proposal:​ Allow either one attached or detached accessory unit on a property in the SFR area, with clear and definitive development requirements such as size, ownership, and parking, under the standard permitting process and not require a conditional use permit.


Example of attached accessory dwelling unit

Example of detached accessory dwelling unit

Cluster/Cottage Housing


Cluster or cottage housing is a flexible approach to land development. In this type of housing, multiple smaller scale single-family homes or cottages are clustered together on variable-sized lots to maximize open space, create common areas, limit traffic flow to ensure safe play areas for children, and encourage the development of trails and walkways through the cluster development.

Currently in Edmonds, cluster and/or cottage housing may only be developed under a zoning process called Planned Residential Development (PRD), which is typically used for developing large planned communities. Developing a single-family zoning type specifically for cluster housing would allow developers a more direct permitting process and eliminate the more costly PRD process to develop cluster housing.

                              Example Cluster Housing Layout    


Policy Proposal:​ Add Cluster/Cottage housing as an option within single-family or multi-family housing in Edmonds.


Development of Neighborhood Villages

Background: Neighborhood villages are locally-oriented mixed-use commercial and residential districts with access to major transit. The residential units in a Neighborhood Village may include live/work spaces, cluster housing, duplexes, triplexes and fourplexes, and multifamily apartment buildings with ground floor commercial use. The ground floor commercial space may include businesses like coffee shops, specialty supermarkets, boutique shops, and small restaurants. Possible areas in Edmonds for consideration of Neighborhood Villages are existing small commercial hubs currently zoned as “Business Neighborhood”.  Any change to allow a Neighborhood Village would require a full public process and consideration of environmental impacts.


Policy Proposal:​ This policy aims to create community and social gathering points by rethinking areas zoned “Business Neighborhood” (5 Corners, Perrinville, etc.) that already exist as commercial hubs. These areas and the surrounding properties are prime locations to transform into Neighborhood Villages.