Arlington is going hard at the Missing Middle (MM) initiative. It’s not because it will provide affordable housing – that myth was debunked relatively early. It’s not for the environment because there’s no way that with more properties going up that it would be better for the environment. It isn’t about being more inclusive because there are no programs associated with the MM that would make sure that the impacts were spread throughout Arlington or for most neediest populations.
It is all about money – some people say it’s because the county is sitting on a shit ton of money from Amazon that they need to spend. Others say it’s because the county wants additional revenue from all of these additional housing stock. But we already know that the cost of providing services to a household will not be covered by the taxes that they pay.
And we also know that corporate landlords and REITS can legally avoid paying taxes on properties when they are not being rented. There goes the entire “free market” argument supply/demand ratios drive price. Arlington has a lot of open supply but it is being priced so high that renters can’t afford the situation. Corporations can actually spend less money by taking the tax incentive or tax consolation prize of it not being rented out.
But there’s a conspiracy starting to float and I find it fascinating – do you remember the critical race theory argument that happened in Loudoun County and literally turned Youngkin‘s assumed gubernatorial loss into a Republican takeover of Virginia?
Is it possible that the missing middle is Arlington’s version of Loudon’s CRT?
Let’s play it out
Arlington county board members Matt de Ferranti (up for election this year and feels pretty confident that he will win), Katie Crystal and Christian Dorsey (all indicators are that they will not be running for reelection next year and have absolutely nothing to lose by having the missing middle pass), Takis K who hates conflict and toes the party line, but is probably known for laying the ground work for the disaster that is Columbia Pike) and Libby Garvey (well, who knows what Libby‘s thinking) appear to all be advocating hard for the MM. So let’s fast forward to July 20th and they green light the MM program, despite community outrage. .
This means all homeowners in Arlington have the potential of having a 2-, 4-, 6-, or even 8-plex built in the lot adjacent to them, regardless of the sized lot. They say that there won’t be any boundary or setback adjustment – it will be the same as it currently is. However, based on how small lots are in Arlington, we know that we run by exception rather than rule there is no height restriction and there are no parking restrictions.
So starting on July 21, the rest of Virginia has watched Arlington Democrats allow the government to impact their quality of life. All of these Arlington homeowners who now have a small house being redeveloped adjacent to them into a 2-, 4-, 6-, or even 8-plex – 8’ feet from the side of their house with little governance around style, space, accountability.
The Republicans take this messaging and run with it (think of it as the “save the steal” or CRT in K12) and propagate the message that this is what the Democrats do. The Democrats use this broad brush messaging that makes people feel guilty for their preference for a single family home, feel like they’re racist if they don’t support the MM argument. That the Democrats use lies like saying we need more MM housing when 70% of Arlington‘s stock is multi-family housing.
So the Republicans take this message out to the rest of Virginia and they say “don’t be like Arlington – don’t let the government put a high-rise right next to you and people freak out they get scared and the state turns red and in that vein goes all the progress that we’ve made on education, on guns, and abortion.
This might be a conspiracy but it’s something to think about because our electorate doesn’t make the time to understand local issues, to dig in, and ask important questions. Voters are decision makers by headline and unless it’s happening to them and they’re watching it happen right next-door to them, they just don’t pay attention.
So stop right now and think about the long-term ramifications of Arlington passing the missing middle program, the talk track that gives the Republican party and the power resulting in Virginia regressing 25 to 50 years of progressive issues.