County Prepares to Update Accessory Dwelling Ordinance

On May 13, Arlington County held a community forum on the upcoming Accessory Dwellings update. Since the AD ordinance was initially enacted almost nine years ago, there have been only 20 AD permits approved.  Adjustments to the existing ordinance were identified as a goal that would advance the objectives of the Affordable Housing Master Plan.  Learn more about how Accessory Dwellings assist with the supply of affordable housing. Prior to the community forum, a Working Group made up of members of the Housing Commission, the Commission on Aging, the Civic Federation, and the Alliance for Housing Solutions was created to assist the county in encouraging greater use of ADs.  During the May forum, community members discussed some preliminary ideas that have come out of the Working Group. Issues raised include size and occupancy, design guidelines, compliance and parking, and detached ADs and townhomes.

Accessory Dwellings: Size and Occupancy

The current ordinance regulates the interior size of the unit, number of occupants, and owner occupancy waiting periods prior to creation of ADs.  Much of the discussion centered around whether the maximum size of an AD should be increased above the 750 sqft limit currently in place to a maximum of 1,000 sqft or 1/3 the size of the home, whichever is less.

Accessory Dwellings: Design

Currently, there are several requirements surrounding entrance location, stairs, and lot features. Discussion centered on how these features should be regulated in an effort to maintain the character and integrity of the neighborhood and single-family dwellings. Limiting the ability to place an entrance on certain sides of the home may make an AD infeasible for some homeowners.

Accessory Dwellings: Compliance and Parking

Compliance with current ordinances is enforced through mandated inspections, deed covenants, and affidavits of compliance at occupancy and move-in, parking requirements and surveys, and an annual cap on the number of ADs. Small changes to compliance were discussed. However, discussion primarily centered around whether the current parking requirements are adequate or if they are too restrictive. Under the current provisions, AD production has been minimal, and flexibility in the regulations may boost the ability of some homeowners to create ADs.

Accessory Dwellings: Detached ADs and Townhomes

The current ordinance specifies that ADs are allowed in one-family dwellings in all R districts (does not include RA districts) and that ADs are allowed in interiors of the main house only (attached units).  Issues raised for discussion include whether the ordinance should be expanded to allow ADs in detached structures and townhomes. Allowing an AD in a detached structure such as a garage could increase the potential number of homeowners interested in creating ADs.

Are you interested in either creating an AD on your property or possibly living in one? If so get in touch and we will keep you updated on opportunities for AD input!

Handouts, infographics, and other resources from the forum  can be found here: