Alexandria staff returned to the Planning Commission one month after Zoning for Housing/Housing for All’s debut, but city leaders remained tepid in their support for the project.
Of note during the work session, however, was a concise breakdown of how Zoning for Housing/Housing for All might affect the city’s housing stock.
The report, delivered by Director of Planning Karl Moritz, said the City of Alexandria currently has around 80,000 units of housing. Moritz said the changes brought about by the zoning changes would create an estimated 2,838 units.
“I regret the precision of a number like that implies,” Moritz said, “because of course these are estimates and based on a number of assumptions.”
Moritz said there are around 50,000 new housing units allowed across the city under approved small area plans, with an anticipated 11,000 that would have been built prior to the approval of Zoning for Housing/Housing for All.
“So that 2,800 is in addition to the 11,000,” Moritz said, “a 25% increase.”
Experts previously told Alexandrians in a panel discussion that the city’s increase in housing supply hasn’t been keeping pace with the demand, leading housing prices to continue to increase.
Planning Commissioners said they’re still “underwhelmed” by the number of units created in the proposal, particularly with only 178 units of additional housing added with the elimination of single-family-only zoning.
“I’m still underwhelmed by the number of units generated in this first phase and I wonder if there’s a way we can add to that as this moves forward,” Commissioner Mindy Lyle said.
Planning Commission Vice Chair Melissa McMahon said, in the future, the city should consider more radical steps like eliminating floor-area ratios (FAR) or parking considerations when it comes to building approval.
“As we talk about more ways to make it cheaper, easier and faster to do housing development, it seems to me that taking us out of the process of deciding how much parking is necessary is a really good idea, if only because it makes it less annoying for everyone developing it,” McMahon said. “That doesn’t mean a single family home won’t have a parking space off-street, it doesn’t mean a townhouse will be built with zero parking instead of a one-car garage, it means there will be options and people developing that unit at that location can decide what’s best for them.”
Moritz said city staff set limits for themselves before Zoning for Housing/Housing for All started, but that those limitations had an unexpectedly large impact on the recommendations.
“Staff did create some parameters around our work: that we would not change FAR, heights or setbacks as part of going into this with the anticipation that creating that boundary would also give us room to make important policy changes without changing what people would see on the ground,” Moritz said. “We learned that things like setbacks and FAR, in particular, is an extraordinary limit and it’s a big factor on why that overall number is low, but changing FAR is a more complicated analysis.”
Planning Commission Chair Nathan Macek said his hope is that moving forward, Zoning for Housing/Housing for All is a first step in the discussion about zoning changes, rather than the end.
“We’re all a little underwhelmed by the numbers we’re seeing… but I do think it’s healthy to look at this not only as one and two phases, but a continual process going forward we revisit continually, not a one-and-done thing in a great to-do now,” Macek said. “It has to be part of our regular routine and something we think about that way.”
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Get ready to Shake, Rattle and Roll with this one-of-a-kind, high-octane rockabilly concert experience! Rockabilly Rumble is the all-new, musical experience celebrating the southern rock music that exploded on the scene in the 1950s. Organized by Alexandria City High School Alum and pro-musician Sam C. Jones, this band of world-class performers will have you dancing in your Blue Suede Shoes all night long with songs made famous by Bo Ridley, Carl Perkins, Roy Orbison, Buddy Holly, Johnny Cash, Elvis Presley and more. Relive their most popular hits, along with some forgotten gems. “Rockabilly Rumble” is a dance-worthy, foot stomping evening you’ll never forget!
This show is 21+ only.
YOU MUST HAVE A VALID PHYSICAL ID. A PICTURE OF YOUR ID IS NOT ACCEPTABLE.
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