Welcome to my latest obsession. It started innocently enough: a client wanted me to put together some quick concept floor plans that would illustrate a 3+ unit multifamily building that would fit into a typical single family home footprint. Multifamily Housing at a Neighborhood Scale, if you will.
The overarching concept is that each building is owner-occupied with 2-3 income producing units attached. The owner’s unit, a two bedroom/one bath, would be on the ground floor. Adjacent to this unit would be the flex space with multiple options for use: a third bedroom with ensuite, a private office with public entrance, or a separate income efficiency apartment set up with private kitchen and three piece bath. Upstairs would be two, one-bedroom/one-bath units to be rented out. Each home can fit on a standard 50’x150’ lot with auto access from the street for the owner & alley access for the tenants. There is room for an attached garage though I personally prefer it without.
Coming in at just over 2,600 square feet, the concept really sparked my imagination, especially with home prices becoming more and more out of reach for many people. If one could own a home that has built-in income, you also create more affordable housing. The idea isn’t exactly new, right? Triplexes and quadplexes set within a single family neighborhood is common place in older neighborhoods, presumably built before modern zoning rules were enacted. Look around the M Streets or Junius Heights in East Dallas and you’ll find examples of neighborhoods that have a mix of these middle density buildings amongst traditional homes.
Buildings such as this one, the two-, three- and four-unit buildings, referred to as the ‘missing middle’, are scaled to mimic single family homes in order to seamlessly fit in. Unfortunately, the current Dallas zoning ordinance doesn’t allow for such harmony. Instead, multi-unit buildings are regulated to multifamily districts, often requiring larger square footage per lot and apartment unit, ultimately creating giant apartment complexes at odds with homeowners. Look around North Oak Cliff and you’ll find these monstrous, towering apartment and townhome complexes dwarfing their single family neighbors.
Perhaps it’s a bit naive to see these as owner-occupied homes; they don’t necessarily have to be. The ultimate idea is to boost the housing supply. But how cool would it be to approach this as your end game? As my family ages, I will ultimately downsize. I don’t want to live in a shoebox amongst hundreds of others folks in those mammoth apartment complexes. With this concept, I could occupy the ground floor, rent the units out to my children, just starting out, or that friend that is starting over late in life, or anyone for that matter. The ground floor flex space could be my pottery studio, office, or for the occasional short term rental. I could create my own community amongst the neighborhood I’ve grown to love.