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Middle Housing Polling Report 2023

In 2022, the City of Knoxville, East Tennessee Realtors, and Knoxville-Knox County Planning partnered to have Opticos Design, experts in the field, analyze the city's zoning code to identify opportunities and barriers to Missing Middle Housing. As a result of the report, the City of Knoxville has proposed a slate of zoning amendments that would remove these barriers. As an organization committed to serving our members by promoting sustainable community development and expanding housing opportunities, the East Tennessee REALTORS® commissioned a scientific public opinion poll to gauge public opinion about middle housing.

Executive Summary

  • Most approve of the direction of Knoxville. Forty-seven percent say the city is headed in the right direction, versus 41 percent who say things have gotten off on the wrong track.
  • Housing costs are clearly a major issue. Forty-eight percent say that housing costs are the most important issue for the local government to focus on. Crime and public safety is a distant second-place, with 20 percent naming it as their top issue concern.
    • Over three-quarters (83 percent) also say that housing affordability is at least a fairly big problem, with 59% who say it is a very big problem. Just four percent say that affordability in Knoxville is only a slight problem or not a problem at all, underscoring how exceptional the issue is for Knoxville voters.
    • In a November 2022 poll, 75 percent of Knoxville residents said that housing affordability was a very/fairly big problem, and 67 percent of Knox County voters overall said the same.
  • Over two-thirds say Knoxville lacks housing diversity. Specifically, voters cite the following:
    • 83 percent say too little housing for younger people and those who are just getting started with their careers
    • 80 percent say too little housing for people with low incomes
    • 71 percent say too little housing for people with moderate incomes
  • About half of voters (48 percent) have experienced some degree of financial strain over housing costs. Twenty percent say they have experienced a significant strain, while 51 percent say they have experienced not much of a strain, or no strain at all (34 percent).
    • Voters under age 50 (61 percent) and those who do not own a home (81 percent) report slight or significant financial stain with higher frequencies.
    • Almost nine-in-ten also say that they would have difficulty finding a new home in their price range if they had to move today.
  • After hearing a brief description of proposed changes to zoning laws in Knoxville, 64 percent favor changes to encourage more multi-family development (36 percent strongly).
    • Voters under age 50 are most supportive of these changes (74 percent), with support decreasing as age increases. However, a plurality of 65+ voters remain in support of the changes (48 percent).


American Strategies designed and administered this multi-modal survey conducted by professional interviewers and online via Qualtrics. The survey reached 404 likely presidential year voters who currently live in the City of Knoxville. The survey was conducted from Sept. 18-22, 2023.

The sample was drawn from a third-party vendor file. The overall margin of error is +/- 4.9%. The margin of error for subgroups is larger and varies. Percentage totals may not add up precisely due to rounding.