New Home Insights Podcast

Don't Miss the Middle


In this podcast, Dan Parolek from Opticos Design shares his insight on a term he coined, "missing middle housing," which he defines to be the range of housing types between or in the middle of detached single-family homes and mid-rise buildings. Dan and his team are working all over the country helping cities, builders, and developers provide a range of market-rate, affordable housing designs. The trick is to design beautiful, functional, financially feasible land plans and home designs for densities between detached and 4-story mid-rise, as shown below. The higher density and lower square footages help reduce the price.

Our nationwide consulting team also specializes in helping builders and developers create these market-rate solutions, and our easy-to-search DesignLens member database produced these inspirational examples.

Bluffs at Promontory

A 4-plex grouping of a flat and townhomes by The New Home Company in California


Modern Collection, Trilogy in Summerlin

A unique stacked duplex, 55+ retirement community by Shea Homes in Nevada


Fusion Collection in Downtown Brambleton

A front-loading townhome project by Van Metre Homes in Virginia


Downtown Superior Townhomes

Alley-loaded townhomes by Wonderland Homes in Colorado

Missing middle homes attempt to mimic SFD living as closely as possible, with the home buyer’s financial compromise being fee-simple ownership and some elbow room. The best designs include creative parking placement, small units that feel large, and well-executed communal space.

Dan notes two societal shifts behind the surge in missing middle housing demand:

  1. Walkability, especially by millennials and boomers. Most homes in America now even come with a walk score.
  2. Single-adult living. Approximately 30% of households are single-person, which should head even higher due to our aging population. Far less than 30% of homes on the market are designed for single households, creating the demand/supply mismatch builders crave.

Dan had some great answers to Dean’s questions:

  • Surban™? Urban-like product in a suburban location is clearly in demand.
  • Locations? Land currently occupied by dying strip malls have proved to be the most successful locations.
  • Costs? The most efficient use of land, including placement of parking, helps affordability a lot. Builders need to push for even smaller units that live as large as possible.

To sum up, creative missing middle housing land plans and home designs will continue to provide the best options for upper-middle-income households willing to trade square footage and some privacy for a new home.

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