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New policy could open up more ‘co-living’ options in Alexandria

Apartment kitchen, via Naomi Hébert/Unsplash

At an upcoming meeting on Thursday, Sept. 9, the Planning Commission is docketed to look at over a new policy that would open up more “co-living” across the city.

Co-living, as defined by the city, is a residential use which allows housing where private bedrooms can be connected to shared spaces, like kitchens, bathrooms and living rooms. Suites can have private bathrooms, but no private cooking facilities are allowed in individual suites or bedrooms under this use.

For anyone thinking “that just sounds like having roommates” — one of the notable differences is co-living spaces typically have individual leases for the tenants rather than a master lease for all residents.

Currently, co-living arrangements are required to go through the city’s special use permit process. The new city policy would:

Allow up to two co-living units in ALL multifamily, high/medium density residential, mixed-use, commercial, and office zones with an administrative Special Use Permit. More than two co-living units or proposals in townhouse zones require a full-hearing Special Use Permit (review by Planning Commission & City Council).

New co-living units are headed to neighboring D.C. and have been a popular option in other cities. A city presentation noted that co-living is not allowed by-right in Arlington County but can be approved in some multi-family development with a full special use permit hearing. Co-living is allowed in Montgomery County with some restrictions.

The city said in a fact-sheet on the new co-living policy that the goals of the policy are to preserve or even enhance the supply of market affordable units — residences considered affordable without being part of the city’s committed affordable housing development. The city’s market affordable housing supply has been in dramatic decline for years.

According to the city, the hope is co-living policy can help:

  • Provide additional flexibility for the creation of market rate affordable units
  • Streamline the approval process for these living arrangements to provide the market with more predictability
  • Expand housing choices by allowing this use where appropriate

The policy is not planned to impact single-family or two-family residential zoning. Currently, four unrelated persons are allowed to live together as a “family”.

Via Naomi Hébert/Unsplash

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