The paper focusses on the relation between references to an ‘average’ and urban developments of crowding or increases in rents. The occurrence of normative orientations towards an ‘average’ in diverse fields – such as debates on work-life balance and medium achievements in the workplace or goals to keep up with average performances in leisure sport – serves as a starting point to investigate the role of the ‘average’ in urban housing. Based on qualitative interviews, discourse analysis and fieldwork in the Rathenauviertel and other districts in Cologne, it asks how ideas of an ‘average’ feature discursively in urban housing and how they are connected to other fields. The paper starts by outlining the prevalence of orientations towards the middle in different fields and specifically in the realm of housing. It proceeds by highlighting how notions of the middle are conveyed in advertisements, how they are tied to normative presuppositions and what impact they have on esthetics and materializations. The paper shows how perceptions of public space change with shifts in urban housing and conditions of appropriateness are adjusted. It concludes by arguing that orientations towards the middle in urban housing can be understood as an interplay between external pressures, normative orientations and justifications.