Frequently Asked Questions

Chief Policy Officer

Cheryl Ball
[email protected]
(865) 215-4991

400 Main St., Room 655
Knoxville, TN 37902

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Missing Middle Housing FAQs

What is Missing Middle Housing?

Missing Middle Housing is house-scale buildings with multiple units in walkable neighborhoods. These neighborhood complimenting structures provide diversity of housing stock with simple, well-designed housing options between the scales of single-family homes and mid-rise apartments.

What forms of Middle Housing is the City proposing for Knoxville?

The City has been working with Knoxville-Knox County Planning staff to propose changes that specifically support the following housing types: Duplex, Triplex. Fourplex, Small Townhouses (3-4 units), Large Townhouses (5-8 units), and Small Multiplex (5-10 units). See Examples page on website for more.

Why do we need Missing Middle Housing?

Knoxville is growing, and so are home prices and rent. With current residents already feeling the economic pressure of rising housing affordability, things will only get worse if there is not enough supply to meet demand.

Allowing more Middle Housing helps address the housing crisis by creating more housing – of more types and prices – for all types of families. Middle housing helps increase housing supply, while also increasing the diversity of housing options people can choose from. Additionally, Middle Housing allows housing options that can better accommodate people of all ages, physical abilities and life stages, including multi-generational families. Additional benefits to our community can be found here.

Will Middle Housing be affordable housing?

Middle Housing can help increase housing supply needed at all levels and is, therefore, an important part of a larger strategy to improve housing affordability and attainability across the Knoxville community.

The City has many Affordable Housing programs. The Middle Housing proposal addresses housing through zoning, which is not influenced by price or income level. Some property owners may choose to charge market rate sale or rent prices. Others, such as non-profit CHDOs (Community Housing Development Organizations), could take advantage of Middle Housing zoning to provide income-based affordable homes to residents and families.

Generally, Middle Housing zoning supports more opportunities for the creation of smaller, attached homes, which may be more attainable housing options for individuals and families.

What did the experts say about Missing Middle Housing in Knoxville?

The City of Knoxville, East Tennessee Realtors, and Knoxville-Knox County Planning partnered in 2022 to hire Opticos Design, experts in the field, to analyze Knoxville’s zoning to identify opportunities and barriers for Missing Middle Housing in our local community.

The detailed report from Opticos can be found here. In short, the report helped identify zoning code barriers, areas of town best suited for Middle Housing, and recommendations specific to helping diversify Knoxville’s housing stock.

How big will these buildings be? Will this fit in with the character of my neighborhood?

These are house-scale buildings, meaning they are designed to be similar in size and shape to single-family homes within a neighborhood. The proposed zoning changes include a variety of Design Standards (found here) and Dimensional Standards (found here) to ensure that middle housing complements the look-and-feel of residential neighborhoods. In addition, Middle Housing developments will still have to follow existing design guidelines (including Historic and Infill Housing guidelines where applicable) and permitting requirements, just like a regular new home or renovation.

Why does the City’s proposal only apply in some areas of the City?

The City’s proposal reflects the recommendations by experts that Middle Housing works best in neighborhoods that are already well supported by infrastructure, are more walkable / bikeable, and close to transit routes, neighborhood businesses, and other areas with existing multifamily housing. In Knoxville, many of these types of neighborhoods are within Traditional Neighborhood Residential (TDR) areas that often have smaller lots, strong infrastructure and are near mixed use areas.

Will this change the zoning for any properties?

No. The City’s proposal does not change the zoning of any property. It does allow more options for creating homes on properties in the Traditional Neighborhood Residential (TDR) areas that are zoned RN-2, RN-3, and RN-4.

Why did the City choose to focus on Traditional Neighborhood Development (TDR) areas?

The City’s approach to Middle Housing follows the Opticos Design recommendations which include identifying areas already supported by infrastructure to create a strong base that could be built upon if desired. In looking for those areas of town already well serviced by infrastructure (walkable, bikeable, transit, neighborhood servicing businesses, etc.) the team identified the existing TDR area as a logical choice to begin more directly supporting Middle Housing.

Could Middle Housing be applied in more areas?

Yes – in the future. The initial proposal is focused only on the TDR areas. However, it creates a foundation to allow Middle Housing in more areas of Knoxville in the future.

What will be the parking requirements for Middle Housing?

The proposed zoning code changes for Middle Housing requires off-street parking for new residential units. These Parking Standards (found here) address where on the property parking can be located and requires a minimum of one parking space per unit. Developers, however, may choose to do more.

Can I convert my single-family house into a duplex or triplex?

In an effort to retain existing housing stock, the City’s proposal provides specific options for property owners to convert their existing house into Middle Housing. These Conversion Standards (found here), address how this can be accomplished.

Where can I go to talk to someone about Middle Housing?

The City will host two Community Open House events on September 21, 2023 at the Emerald Youth Foundation Gymnasium at 1718 Central St. and on September 25 at the John T. O’Connor Center. Both events are drop in style from 4:30-7 pm. Additional details can be found here. City Council is scheduled to have a workshop on the Middle Housing proposals on September 28.

When will the new changes take effect in Knoxville?

The City has proposed plans for review by Planning Commission in October. If the plans are recommended by Planning Commission, the proposal will then go to City Council for review. If the policy changes are approved by City Council, they would go into effect on January 1, 2024.

Will the City address additional Middle Housing Topics in the Future?

The City plans to continue to work on some additional items related to Middle Housing in the future.

While we do not have timelines or details, some items under consideration include the following:

• Cottage Court – This type of Middle Housing is identified in the Pocket Neighborhood component of the current zoning code. However, there are numerous complications & barriers to development that the City plans to address.

• Duplexes permitted use in RN-2 – Councilwoman Seema Singh made a request of Planning to look at Duplexes as permitted use in RN-2 across the whole City. The City’s first phase proposal for Middle Housing focuses exclusively on the TDR geography.

• Middle Homemakers – Housing and Neighborhood Development is working on a new initiative that would be built off the concept of the Homemakers Program to be more supportive of Middle Housing.

• Preapproved Plans Catalogue – City Council expressed an interest in a book of preapproved plans that would support small developer’s pursuit of Middle Housing. The first phase of changes need to be put into place before starting on this rather large project.