Construction workers complete the framework of a townhome in Ballard on Wednesday, March 24, 2023. In the background are newly built townhomes for sale. (Amanda Snyder/Crosscut)

For years, Seattle’s job and population growth have outpaced the building of new housing. Though there’s been a seemingly uninterrupted stream of new apartment construction, the city still needs to add at least 112,000 new units of market-rate and subsidized housing by 2044 to meet demand. And while apartments will continue to be a key part of that puzzle, they do nothing to add to the much-needed supply of homes people can own.

Enter missing middle housing: two- to six-unit homes that provide greater density than single-family houses. Developers have long been able to build such homes — mostly in the form of tall skinny townhome clusters — in the cores of Seattle’s urban villages. But, in the vast majority of residential neighborhoods, single-family homes have been the only legal option.

Now, thanks to the state Legislature’s new missing middle zoning law, developers will be able to build four- to six-home projects across Seattle.

So what’s next for the city? Are we staring down a future where six-packs of tall skinny townhomes replace every single-family home in Seattle? Or will it be something much subtler? (Spoiler: much subtler.) Are any developers lining up to build small apartment complexes? How soon will these changes take place?

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