The Expanding Housing Choices forum provides new ideas for “missing middle housing”

On Thursday, November 14, 2019 MAPA, AARP Iowa, AARP Nebraska and UNO Center for Public Affairs Research (CPAR) hosted the Expanding Housing Choices forum at the Thompson Alumni Center

The forum featured many community leaders and advocates who presented their own research and cases to better connect the content to the metro. They touched on subjects such as demographic considerations for future housing, establishing community conversations around housing, and zoning issues when developing housing.

Starting Presentations by Derek Miller, AICP and Andy Wessel

Eli Spevak, founder of Orange Splot, LLC was the keynote speaker and addressed the audience about different options to fill missing middle housing in the metro. Spevak has worked on many missing middle and Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) projects around the Portland area to create a more accessible housing market.

His presentation focused mostly on ADUs and how they can be an effective tool to fill the missing middle gap. These small units are second dwellings on a single family residential lot, sometimes known as granny flats, and are versatile, adaptable, affordable and more.

“This is not just seniors living in small homes, it’s people who just can’t afford to live anywhere else” – Eli Spevak

Eli’s Presentation

The first panel of the forum discussed the economic and demographic considerations for future housing needs. The panelists (shown above) were Chris Kelly, Ph.D, with the UNO Department of Gerontology, Josie Schafer, Ph.D of CPAR and Andy Wessel of the Douglas County Health Department.

Kelly presented his findings on housing options for older Nebraskans while Schafer touched on trends in Nebraska’s housing market. Wessel, co-chair of Heartland 2050’s Housing and Development committee, made the case for affordable housing and used his own research to back up Kelly and Schafer’s findings.

Panel #1 Presentations

The second panel featured Alexis Bromley of ONE Omaha and Asit Goswami of the Gifford Park Neighborhood Association who shared why community engagement is vital for advocating for housing that is affordable and accessible for all. 

Goswami used his own experience in the Gifford Park neighborhood to emphasize the importance of filling missing middle housing in other neighborhoods across the Omaha-Council Bluffs metro. 

Bromley went through the process of restructuring community engagement and its importance to push more active participation from community members and create a uniform goal.

Panel #2 Presentations

The final panel discussed development and zoning considerations when filling missing middle housing. The largest panel of the day included David Levy of the Omaha Housing Authority, Ruben Gomez of Wausau Homes, Will Greene of the Omaha Missing Middle Housing Campaign and Emily Andersen, RA, of DeOld Andersen Architecture.

This panel focused on the barriers and obstacles to achieving missing middle housing. From zoning, policy, design and parking the panel shared recommendations to overcoming these obstacles such as overlay districts, state legislation and greater coordination with the financial and insurance industry.

Panel #3 Presentations

The Expanding Housing Choices forum brought stakeholders and community leaders and advocates together to create awareness surrounding the issue of missing middle housing.

With a tight housing market and changing needs from the Baby Boom and Millennial generations, it’s clear we need greater flexibility and more options. Eli Spevak did a great job of highlighting both what works and the hard work it takes to build homes that fit the growing number of one or two person households -Andy Wessel, Douglas Health Department, Vice Chair of Heartland 2050 Housing & Development Committee