Land use tools are used by the County to leverage housing affordability opportunities. This initiative will explore the creative use of new and existing land use and zoning mechanisms to expand both affordable and missing middle housing.
Accessory Dwelling Regulations Update
In November 2017, the Arlington County Board adopted an ordinance updating the accessory dwelling regulations in the Zoning Ordinance, which governs second dwellings with a kitchen, bathroom, and a separate entrance on existing single-family lots. In 2019, the County Board adopted additional zoning regulations allowing stand-alone accessory dwellings on the rear of lots to encourage an adequate and flexible supply of housing to meet community needs, as well as provide support so that older adults can age in place.
Elder Care Zoning Study
Status: In process.
Staff has substantially completed a zoning study to expand the potential locations in the County for licensed assisted living and elder care facilities, and to clarify the zoning and development standards for these types of uses. Based on the study recommendations, the County Board amended the Zoning Ordinance in December 2019. Previously, Arlington’s zoning regulations strictly limited the possible locations for new assisted living facilities and nursing homes. A central goal of the County’s zoning update was to permit elder care housing in additional zoning districts that already allow multifamily residential and commercial/mixed use development. In January 2020, the County Board will consider an additional amendment to allow elder care uses in the C-3 zoning district, which the amendments adopted in 2019 did not address.
Bonus density provisions in the Zoning Ordinance allow developers to increase the size and height of buildings in exchange for contributions toward community facilities, on-site committed affordable units, or, in limited cases, contributions to the Affordable Housing Investment Fund (AHIF). Over the past 15 years, these amounts have been substantial:
- $49,407,595 in contributions in lieu of on-site units
- 336 on-site Committed Affordable Units (CAFs)
Under Housing Arlington, staff analyzed existing bonus density provisions in the Zoning Ordinance and recommended changes.
In November 2019 the County Board eliminated bonus density maximums for site plan projects that provide affordable housing or community facilities. The Zoning Ordinance had capped how much additional density a project could gain through special exception site plan review. Removing the caps will allow the County to consider bonus density, where appropriate, on a case-by-case basis. This approach could in turn yield more opportunities to support housing affordability.
Plan Lee Highway
Status: In process.
Building on visioning work by the Lee Highway community in 2016, the County is leading a multi-year community planning process that takes a closer look at the long-term goals for this important corridor and its surrounding areas. This vision calls for Lee Highway to become a walkable, urban main street with a string of neighborhood activity centers between Rosslyn and East Falls Church, along with new transportation and housing options, better public spaces and more. The study area includes properties along the Lee Highway frontage with commercial and multi-family uses, as well as several discrete areas of low-density residential uses.
Housing Conservation District
Status: In process. Community engagement coming in 2020. County Board to consider recommendations in 2021.
In 2017, the County Board created the Housing Conservation District (HCD) and adopted the HCD Policy Framework. This special planning district encompasses twelve areas, containing 382 properties and over 5,600 apartments, located throughout the County outside existing planned areas. These areas contain a significant concentration of market-rate affordable rental units (MARKs). The goal of this effort is to maintain and enhance the character of multifamily neighborhoods, encourage the preservation of existing market-rate affordable housing, and create opportunities for new affordable and moderate-income units when redevelopment occurs. The study could also lead to new forms of housing, creating a greater variety of housing types available for Arlington residents.
Staff is conducting an assessment of the recent Zoning Ordinance amendment (November 2019) that allows the County Board to consider additional bonus density for site plan projects. These changes to bonus density (and height) provisions could impact the preliminary recommendations for the Housing Conservation District that were outlined in the HCD Update Report published for community review in 2019. Additional analysis is needed to determine how to move forward on HCD.
Additionally, staff is coordinating with Plan Lee Highway (PLH) to ensure that both processes inform each other. There are six (6) HCD areas located within the PLH study boundaries:
- North Highlands East,
- North Highlands West,
- Spout Run / Lyon Village,
- Waverly Hills,
- John M. Langston, and
HCD recommendations for these six areas will be reconciled with the planning guidance developed through the PLH process prior to final County Board action on HCD.
It is anticipated that additional community engagement, to review potential updated zoning and policy recommendations, will occur in the third and fourth quarter of 2020, with the goal of developing final recommendations for County Board consideration in early 2021. As staff continues to assess recent zoning amendments compared to the HCD Policy Framework and Update Report proposals, the timeline for community engagement will be further defined and shared.
Missing Middle Housing Study
Status: Pre-planning. Draft Scope of Work under public review.
The Missing Middle Housing Study will explore how new housing types could help address Arlington’s shortfall in housing supply and gaps in housing choices.
Staff is currently conducting a public review of a Draft Scope of Work. Other next steps include outreach to a network of community partners, compilation of a Research Compendium, and other pre-planning tasks.
Timeline and Engagement Opportunities
View a calendar of scheduled Housing Arlington Meetings & Engagements.