At a March 9 Public Hearing, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors heard virtual public testimony from over 70 individuals, communities and associations as the Board considers a modernization and rewrite of the county’s zoning ordinance.
Much of those comments were directed at proposed changes to the County’s renamed Accessory Living Unit (ALU) ordinance which would substantially loosen regulations governing the use of accessory dwelling units in the county. Fairfax County currently has some of the strictest regulations in the region when it comes to letting homeowners build accessory units such as basement apartments, granny flats or mother-in-law suites. Fairfax requires anyone who wants to build such a unit to prove that the occupant will be a person over the age of 55 or someone with a disability, and the county requires a lengthy and oftentimes expensive permit approval process.
The new proposal would remove the age and disability requirements, adjust the size and design constraints of the units, and would make the ALU approval process for attached units administrative, removing the need for lengthy hearings before the Board of Zoning Appeals.
Peter Bixby, associate broker with the Chapman-Bixby Residential Group affiliated with Compass, and Chairman of the NVAR Public Policy Committee, spoke in support of the measure during the five-hour public hearing. “Accessory living units have the potential to increase the supply of market-rate affordable housing by leveraging the existing housing stock on already developed land,” said Bixby in his comments. “ALU’s disperse housing density across neighborhoods rather than concentrating it in a few areas; and they are an effective tool for allowing existing homeowners to capitalize on the value of their homes while allowing them to stay in place.”
The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors deferred action on the proposal to the next full Board meeting on March 23. The Alexandria City Council is also considering a similar accessory unit proposal, following other DC area jurisdictions such as Arlington County and Montgomery County, Maryland in leveraging accessory units to try to provide much needed relief for some of the pressure on the housing market.
Check out the County’s FAQ for more information on the proposed Accessory Living Unit Changes