Most people believe in principle in expanding opportunity and affordability. This holds true for people we’ve talked to who live in Seattle’s neighborhoods of mostly single-detached housing. For example, respondents in our focus groups said they want to live in welcoming, affordable, and diverse communities, where people of all incomes can afford to live close to friends, family, transit, jobs, schools, and parks

But sometimes in practice, especially when local zoning changes are proposed, these ideals erode, trumped by fears that multi-family homes will dramatically change a neighborhood. If left to the imagination, multi-family housing can become exaggerated, sounding big, unfamiliar, and even scary. 

Showing what missing middle homes look like helps tame exaggerated fears.

Show Middle Homes—Don’t Just Tell

The homes our cities need most—low-rise apartments and other modest, attached homes like duplexes and fourplexes—don’t look scary when you actually see examples of them. They are familiar facades in many of our neighborhoods already. Remember, middle homes aren’t newfangled. Older middle home options exist in many Cascadian neighborhoods where current zoning means they are no longer allowed. 

Showing photos puts a friendly face on the kinds of homes we’re talking about, going a long way toward normalizing a range of housing types. 

We know from our own Sightline focus group research that simply naming the types of homes gentle infill upzoning would invite—triplexes, duplexes, small apartment buildings, and basement or backyard cottages—assuages fears. People could picture homes like these in their communities and they understood them to be inherently more affordable and renter-friendly. Seeing “missing middle” homes takes this a step further. Plus, images help counteract concerns about open space, trees, parking, and neighborhood “character.”

Check Out Our Free, Open-Source Photo Bank of Missing Middle Homes

Researching and writing about affordability solutions over the years, we know photos of multi-family housing aren’t always easy to find. So, we created a missing middle homes photo library of our own!

Take a spin! We invite our colleagues and policy partners—as well as activists and journalists—to post, publish, share, tweet, and otherwise employ these images however they like.

Click through our growing collection of duplex photos:


Share and tag missing middle photos on Sightline’s Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook pages, using these hashtags: #MissingMiddle and #SightlineHousing. (We also like #GentleDensity, or the cheeky #LegalizeIt.) 

We hope you’ll also help us build up this photo bank. Snap some pictures of your favorite homes and send them our way with the subject line “missing middle homes.”

Here are tips on snapping photos to put missing middle homes in their best light:

Photos Put a Friendly Face on Missing Middle Homes

Original Sightline Institute graphic, available under our free use policy.

NOTE: The photos in our library don’t necessarily adhere to all these best practices! This collection is a work in progress. We’ll be adding photos as we have them. And we hope you’ll send us your photos to share as well! Email with feedback and images to submit.

July 22, 2019