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Alexandria Refines Accessory Dwelling Units Policy and Cuts Parking Requirement

Alexandria is moving forward with plans to implement new Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) policies aimed at making it easier to build units both attached to existing houses and separately on residential lots.

ADUs are generally small units sold or rented out to residents other than those in the main house. ADUs increase the availability of housing stock and have been eyed as a potential solution to the decline in market-rate affordable housing. These hopes for ADUs are also frequently paired with concerns that they could add density to Alexandria’s existing neighborhoods.

Staff said in a presentation to the Planning Commission yesterday that the proposal is any single-family, two-family or townhouse dwelling can apply to have an ADU. Staff has also done community outreach to gather public feedback and said that 56% of those surveyed supported ADU policies, while 26% did not and 8% were still undecided.

Early on in the process, Alexandria prioritized making the ADU process not too onerous on property owners, an issue that has plagued Arlington and led to a widespread lack of ADU implementation. Staff said there would be a no-fee permit required for ADUs in Alexandria.

“Having permit process would increase predictability for applicants seeking ADUs,” staff said.

Only one ADU would be allowed per lot and — at least in current plans — the permit would require the owner to live  on the property. Staff said this requirement helps ensure the use remains compatible with the neighborhoods.

Staff told the City Council that the policy has undergone some refinement.

“We want to be really intentional about these units remaining accessory,” staff said. “It should not be occupied by more than three persons. We still need to do more research for owner occupancy requirement.”

The ADUs could also be used as short-term rentals, though concurrent rental of the main house and the ADU would not be permitted. No additional off-street parking will be required for ADUs, a decision staff said was intended to cut down on excessive driveway space.

Image via Arlington County

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