Press Club

County’s Accessory Dwelling Ordinance Set For a Refresh

The county’s ordinance on accessory dwelling units, also known as “granny flats” or “mother-in-law suites,” is set for some changes after staff and a citizen group put together some initial ideas.

Only 20 ADUs — defined as a second place to live on a property, with a kitchen, a bathroom and a separate entrance — have been approved in Arlington since the ordinance first came into effect in 2009.

In a bid to encourage more accessory dwellings, the county convened a working group, which has come up with several proposals, including:

  • ADUs would be allowed in townhomes. (Currently they are only allowed on the inside of a single-family home.)
  • ADUs would be allowed to exist as detached dwellings.
  • The maximum allowed size would be increased from 750 to 1,000 square feet
  • The maximum occupancy would be increased from two people to three to allow for couples with a child or similar circumstances.
  • The requirement that accessory dwellings can also only be added after a year of ownership would be removed, meaning home builders could begin to add them in new homes.

In March, local economist Eric Brescia, a member of the County Housing Commission and the Arlington County Republican Committee’s policy director, said there are too many “poison pills” preventing further approvals of accessory dwellings. He argued that relaxing regulations could help ease the county’s lack of affordable housing.

Staff will share these preliminary ideas and more at a community meeting Saturday, from 10 a.m. to noon at Francis Scott Key Elementary School (2300 Key Blvd).

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