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Affordable Housing

A Critical Piece of the Puzzle: Small and Medium Multifamily Housing

12 March 2019
Julia Bayer
This map shows the percentage of total housing stock in each census tract that is composed of SMMF housing. Click here for a larger version of the map.

In December of 2018 the City of Minneapolis was on the forefront of progressive housing policy when the City Council passed the comprehensive Minneapolis 2040 plan that would end zoning specifically for single-family homes. Single family home zoning had historically been used as a way to entrench residential segregation and make it difficult for minorities to move into certain neighborhoods. This plan, as a way to up-zone the city, will permit three-family homes and strives to establish a more equitable city.

While Minneapolis is geographically far away from Connecticut, this recent policy provides context to the work, and reinforces the importance, of Small and Medium Multifamily Housing Units (SMMF). SMMF properties are defined as buildings with two to 49 units and compromise over 20% of the U.S. housing stock. In New England, especially in metropolitan areas, this percentage is even higher. In a study entitled “Small and Medium Multifamily Housing Units: Affordability, Distribution, and Trends” (2017) authored by a team of researchers at the University of Southern California Price School of Public Policy and Enterprise Community Partners they find that in the Northeast SMMF units make up 27% of the housing stock. This is not surprising as SMMF housing has a long history in the region, in fact it is where this type of construction originated. Today, most of the SMMF units in the region are older, many of the properties built before 1940, and often are smaller with two to four units.

In the Greater Hartford area one can see the prevalence of SMMF units and understand that they are a key part of a diverse array of residential neighborhoods. In suburban, West Hartford when one drives down Quaker Lane or Brace Road it is easy to see how the SMMF units fit in side-by-side with single family units; from a distance it is hard to distinguish. In a town like West Hartford, where housing prices are often quite high, SMMF properties provide a crucial, more affordable housing option. In more urban environments such as the City of Hartford new re-development projects such as The Zunner building on 87 and 89 Atwood Street or 4-40 Vine Street seek to grow the SMMF units available to people of varied income levels.

SMMF units are an essential part of providing affordable housing. These units house many low-income families both those receiving subsidies and those paying alone. SMMF units are nationally overwhelmingly renter occupied, 80%, and of those renters over half, 60%, of them are in the lowest income band between $0-$10,000 in annual income. In New England, there is a long history of SMMF units and it is critical as ever to provide for their accessibility to a diversity of people.


An, B., Bostic, R.W., Jakabovics, A., Orlando, A.W., and Rodnyansky, S. (2017). “Small and Medium Multifamily Housing Units: Affordability, Distribution, and Trends.” Enterprise Community Partners and USC Bedrosian Center on Public Enterprises.


We are thrilled to host our first IForum of 2019, Past and Future Housing: Connecticut’s Missing Middle, on Wednesday, March 27th. Join housing experts as they discuss small multifamily housing, and its role in expanding housing options for Connecticut residents. In particular, we will focus the discussion on developments containing between 2 and 9 units.

Our keynote presentation will be delivered by Andrew Jakabovics, Vice President of Policy Development at Enterprise Communities Partners, Inc., a national nonprofit organization that creates opportunity for low- and moderate-income people through fit, affordable housing in diverse, thriving communities. In 2017, Mr. Jakabovics and a team of researchers from University of Southern California published the data analysis report “Small and Medium Multifamily Housing Units: Affordability, Distribution, and Trends,” and a corresponding white paper “Understanding the Small and Medium Multifamily Housing Stock.”

Julia Bayer is a Connecticut native and senior at Macalester College in Minnesota studying Political Science with a focus on Geographic Information System Mapping. Above she shares her take on the important role small and medium multifamily housing has in Connecticut.