The Alexandria Housing Division Plan will end the single-family zoning

Alexandria could eliminate single-family zoning this fall under a draft proposal unveiled by city planners Tuesday evening, put This northern Virginia city is on track to follow the example of one of its neighbors in embracing an increasingly popular—and often contentious—idea in urban planning.

The plan is one of many potential modifications that city lawmakers will consider in November as part of the city’s ongoing “housing zoning” initiative, which looks to increase housing supply and lower costs in this community of 160,000 residents.

But of nearly a dozen provisions introduced to city lawmakers on Tuesday, this change is expected to be the most controversial. The proposed change in Alexandria would facilitate building construction of up to four units in neighborhoods that have long been reserved for a single house with a yard on each plot.

City planners also recommended repealing rules requiring off-street parking in apartment buildings Close to metro stations or rapid bus transportation. This rule applies to single-family neighborhoods as well as areas largely filled with townhouses, such as the city’s historic Old Town.

“We are facing a housing crisis, and the purpose of this work is to strengthen our tools,” Karl Moritz, director of city planning, said in an interview Tuesday afternoon. “That’s why a variety of things are being considered. The idea is to better position Alexandria to meet our housing challenges.

If the fully Democratic city council votes to support the change, Alexandria will, in a sense, follow the path that Arlington County abandoned. After a fierce debate that lasted for months, Arlington lawmakers have approved a “missing middle” policy to allow the construction of up to four units – in most cases six units – in any residential area. in that county.

Like its neighbor to the north, Alexandria is a liberal, mostly affluent suburb that has also seen housing costs skyrocket in recent decades. The average single-family home in Alexandria sold for about $851,000 last month, compared to about $570,000 for all types of homes across the city.

Officials also estimate that at least 19,000 families in Alexandria are “overburdened,” meaning they spend more than 30 percent of their income on rent or mortgage payments and other associated costs.

Even before the meeting, the plan had drawn opposition from some longtime homeowners.

A newly launched organization, the Coalition for a Livable Alexandria, drew dozens of people to a rally outside City Hall last week, with speakers noting that the initiative was rushed and would not significantly reduce costs in Alexandria.

“It’s a very simplistic way of looking at it,” group president Roy Bird, who owns a three-bedroom home in Clover College Park, said in a speech at the rally. “If you create more density to create more housing, it will increase affordability. Where has that worked?”

But Peter Sutherland, events director for YIMBYs urban group in Northern Virginia, said rising housing costs required a more aggressive approach from city lawmakers.

He and his wife, who rent an apartment in Old Town North, were looking to buy a home and placed one of eight bids for a home. They failed to get about $100,000.

“One or two simple amendments to the zoning law no longer suffices,” he said, adding that he is excited to see the city take “a more holistic approach to zoning that applies across the board and is really cutting to the heart of the issue.”

In the draft plan for single-family neighbourhoods, city planners laid out two options for legislators: The first, highly recommended by planners, would allow up to four units to be built in these areas. Another option would allow these “four blocks” in areas with smaller plots of land and buildings of up to two units elsewhere.

They did the same for parking rules. The planners recommended the option of eliminating any off-street parking requirement in areas close to public transport and reducing that requirement in other areas to one off-street parking space for one- or two-unit buildings and two spaces for three- or four-unit buildings.

An alternative would reduce these requirements, but only in areas close to transportation: it would require one off-street parking space for one- or two-unit buildings and two spaces for three- or four-unit buildings.

In all, the planners expected the policy’s impact to be relatively modest: with the same standards for elevation, plot coverage and other specifications, these new zoning rules – if passed – would result in the redevelopment of around 66 properties, adding 150 to 178 units to the land area. . next decade.

Melissa McMahon, vice chair of the city’s planning commission, suggested at a meeting Tuesday that the proposals weren’t enough. “I want to admit that I am a little frustrated with the potential impact that I see in the proposals,” she said.

Unlike arlington – where Until recently, planners said, most of the governorate was designated for single-family homes, with just over a third of land in Alexandria set aside for such use. Neighborhoods like Arlandria-Chirilagua, Old Town, and Landmark are largely filled with garden apartments, high-rises, or townhouses.

These areas could be affected by other parts of the housing zoning initiative, which officially kicked off in March with events that introduced potential policy changes as a way to combat the city’s history of residential segregation.

In light of the need for more housing, Alexandria is looking to rewrite zoning rules

Other changes would push for more affordable housing in converting empty office buildings into apartments—an area in which Alexandria has emerged as a national leader—and Lifting the current restrictions on the number of units per acre, including areas with large residential buildings.

Notably, the draft changes do not include any recommendations that could open parts of the city to tall buildings in some neighborhoods.

Under current zoning rules, developers can require an additional 25 feet of building on building projects if they promise to use some of that extra space for affordable housing — but only in neighborhoods that already have buildings over 50 feet tall.

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