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.
The County Board acted on these recommendations in November 2019 and 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 scoping document under review. First of three phases to kick off in second quarter of 2020
The Missing Middle Housing Study, anticipated to start in 2020, will explore if and how missing middle homes could help address Arlington’s limited housing supply and inadequate housing choices. Missing middle housing types—such as duplexes and triplexes—are currently restricted in many neighborhoods by Arlington’s land use policy and Zoning Ordinance. Barriers to building missing middle housing impede the County’s ability to increase its overall supply of housing and provide more choices at a broader range of price points.
Starting from a blank slate with no proposed policy or zoning changes on the table, a County-led team will marshal inclusive public engagement, cross-disciplinary expertise, extensive data collection and analysis, and an iterative design process to create Missing Middle Housing Study recommendations for County Board consideration. In addition to establishing a shared definition for the term missing middle, the study aims to:
- Determine if, and how, new housing types can help address the shortage of housing supply in Arlington;
- Locate where new housing types could be compatible with existing neighborhoods; and
- Identify what strategies could be employed to mitigate any negative impacts.
The study framework presented to the Board in December 2019 emphasizes that neither an across-the-board rezoning, nor an elimination of single-family zoning, would be the right fit for Arlington. Policies and regulations will be informed by community recommendations to advance the County’s vision for equity, diversity, and inclusion. Solutions will need to be context-sensitive – not a one-size-fits-all approach.
Staff is currently conducting a public review of a Draft Scope, Charge and Timeline . The following engagements are anticipated to collect feedback on this document prior to finalizing it:
- Jan. 16 – Housing Commission
- Jan. 22 – Long Range Planning Committee
- TBD February – online presentation and feedback form for all stakeholders
- TBD February – Transportation Commission and E2C2
- TBD March – NCAC
- TBD March – County Board
- Additional engagements will be updated as scheduled
Other next steps for staff include establishing a project website, outreach to a network of community partners, compilation of a Research Compendium with study background information, and other pre-planning tasks.
Timeline and Engagement Opportunities
View a calendar of scheduled Housing Arlington Meetings & Engagements.