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Opinion Stacked townhouses fill an important housing niche

A rendering of Downtown Crown in Gaithersburg.

A cross between apartments and townhouses, the “stacked townhouse” is becoming a popular house type among D.C.-area homebuilders and buyers. While they’re great for urban neighborhoods, a quirk in zoning means they’re most common in far-flung suburbs.

Also called a two-over-two or maisonette, the stacked townhouse is basically a rowhouse divided into two two-story units, one over the other. Both units have doors on the street, usually in a little alcove, making it look like it’s one big house. The garages are tucked in back, on an alley.

This house type is what some architects call the “missing middle,” not quite a house, not quite an apartment, but a good alternative housing choice in places where the only options are a detached house or a high-rise.

Historically, many cities have rowhouses divided into multiple apartments: Boston’s triple-deckers, Chicago’s two- and three-flats, Montreal’s plexes. In those cases, each building generally has a single owner who rents out the other unit. They don’t seem to have been common in the District.

Today’s stacked townhouses are either sold individually as condos, or rented out as apartments in a larger complex. They’ve become popular in the D.C. area within the past 20 years for a couple of reasons.

Builders like stacked townhouses because they take up the same amount of space as one townhouse, which saves on land and infrastructure costs. Unlike traditional apartment or condo buildings, these homes don’t have lots of common hallways and lobbies that can be expensive to build and maintain.

[Continue reading Dan Reed’s post at Just Up The Pike.]

Dan Reed blogs at Greater Greater Washington and Just Up the Pike. Want to contribute to All Opinions Are Local? Send an email to jamie.rileykolsky@washpost.com.

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