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How One Nonprofit Housing Developer in Roanoke, Va., Is Restoring the Vacant Middle

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Planning + Development

How One Nonprofit Housing Developer in Roanoke, Va., Is Restoring the Vacant Middle

Restoration Housing is working to create 'Middle Housing' through historic preservation for the social benefit of limited-income families

February 24, 2023
Old, white Victorian house
Image: Digital Precision Photography and Restoration Housing

Missing Middle Housing is based on the building blocks of the past, and yet the preservation of historical properties that already embody the movement’s principles is often left out of the conversation. All too often, the discussion centers around building ourselves out of the housing crisis through new construction. But there are countless vacant and blighted properties in communities that need reinvestment and affordable housing options. While there are roadblocks to this method, just as with new construction, Restoration Housing—a small nonprofit housing developer located in Roanoke, Va.—is working to ensure historic preservation is a part of the Missing Middle Housing movement.

“Most of our properties were built around the turn of the century when Roanoke was rapidly growing as a railroad hub. These historic homes and their surrounding neighborhoods were much more complex and dynamic in their uses at that time and allowed homeowners to employ a slight increase in density to their homes during an economic downturn,” says Restoration Housing’s Executive Director, Isabel Thornton. That light density increase is something that is usually all but nonexistent in post war neighborhoods with single-family zoning. However, Ms. Thornton is quick to point out that “the original housing stock in historic cities across America inherently embody the principles of Missing Middle Housing with many in need of reinvestment and low to moderate-income residents needing better options than what is usually available among affordable rental housing. Historic preservation needs to be a part of the conversation. Trying to build our way out of the housing crisis can be an uphill battle. Let’s look for opportunities within the existing built environment too.”

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