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MMH Scan™ Supports Adoption of Middle Housing Standards in Knoxville

The Knoxville City Council recently adopted Middle Housing Zoning standards informed by Opticos’ Missing Middle Housing Scan. The Council’s aim is to expand housing options while preserving neighborhood character. Developed in collaboration with community input and Opticos Design’s consultation, these standards aim to facilitate the construction of diverse house-scale housing types within Traditional Neighborhood Residential zones.

On February 6, 2024, City Council in Knoxville, TN, adopted Mayor Kincannon’s proposed set of zoning code changes and design and development standards for Middle Housing. The standards became effective February 22nd and are intended to allow more housing choices similar in height and footprint of existing single-family houses. The standards apply to parcels in Traditional Neighborhood Residential zones, a long-standing land use classification in Knoxville. (RN-1, RN-2, RN-3 and RN-4)

The standards were prepared by Knoxville-Knox County Planning and City staff and were peer-reviewed by Opticos Design. The standards are the result of the Mayor and the Planning staff working with the community over the past year to customize zoning standards that allow house-scale buildings that fit the neighborhood physical character with 2 or more units (duplexes, triplexes, fourplexes, townhouses, and small multiplexes).

The standards are based on the September 2022 recommendations from Opticos Design to help implement Missing Middle Housing along corridors and neighborhoods. Opticos Design prepared a Missing Middle Scan™ and visited Knoxville in March 2023 to present and discuss the findings and recommendations with the community and City Council.

The Missing Middle Scan™ recommended how and where Middle Housing could fit well. In addition, the scan focused on which Middle Housing types are allowed by current standards and, if not allowed, what barriers are in the way. Key barriers ranged from maximum allowed density being too low for middle housing, a lack of clarity about what multi-family housing means in terms of building size, and the lack of standards to generate house-scale buildings that fit well in existing neighborhoods.

Congratulations to Mayor Kincannon and the Knoxville City Council for working closely with their neighborhoods and for providing the opportunity for more diverse housing choices!

If you have any thoughts or questions feel free to reach out to Tony Perez, Senior Associate, Opticos Design. Please contact Cheryl Ball, Chief Policy Officer, City of Knoxville if you have questions about Knoxville’s new Middle Housing ordinance.