Accessory Dwelling Units in Alexandria

The City is launching a community process to develop accessory dwelling unit (ADU) policy to help expand housing options, affordability and accessibility in neighborhoods throughout Alexandria. With stakeholder input, the study will inform the development of proposed amendments to the Zoning Ordinance that permit the construction of ADUs.

Page updated on Feb 2, 2021 at 1:16 PM

City Council Approved Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) Policy

City Council approved ADU policy on January 23, 2021 at their regular public hearing. More information can be found here and navigating to docket item #6.

City Council amended the policy to include the following:

  • Require homeowners to maintain primary residence of the subject property at the time of ADU construction.
  • Prohibit the exclusive use of an ADU as a short-term rental.
  • Require a fee for ADU permits.
  • Require larger setbacks for taller, detached ADUs.

What's Next?

ADU policy must be adopted as an ordinance and is not law until final passage. City Council will introduce the ordinance in early March with final passage anticipated by the end of March.

Accessory Dwelling Unit Policy Recommendations

Feedback on our draft ADU policy recommendations was accepted from October 9 to November 6. Staff refined the October 9 recommendations and the amended version can be  found below. in addition to the draft proposal and feedback received. 

What are ADUs?

Accessory dwelling units (ADUs), commonly referred to as “in-law apartments” or “granny flats”, are secondary, independent living units that typically have a separate kitchen, sleeping area and bathroom. ADUs can assume different forms including basement apartments, converted garages or new structures detached from a primary residence. ADUs can:

  • Bring in rental income that helps cover housing costs for both first-time homebuyers and long-time Alexandrians at risk of being priced out of the city;
  • Provide on-site housing options for multi-generational families, caregivers for seniors and persons with disabilities, live-in childcare providers and other caretakers;
  • Enhance housing affordability for the City’s workforce, including recent graduates and young professionals.
  • Frequently Asked Questions (Updated August 12, 2020)

Previous Outreach

  • October 22,2020 - Virtual Community Meeting 
  • July 15, 2020 - Presentation summarizing initial community feedback received and addressing questions regarding how the City's Zoning Ordinance currently regulates ADUs.
    • Video
    • Presentation
    • Feedback was accepted from July 15 through August 19. Please note that the dates provided in this presentation regarding the release of draft recommendations and the virtual open house are incorrect. Staff is currently reevaluating the project timeline and will post information on this page as soon as these dates are finalized.
  • April 17, 2020 - Presentation providing an introduction to ADUs and why the City initiated this study. Community feedback was accepted from April 17 through May 10 and will inform staff’s policy recommendations considered by the Planning Commission and City Council.

More About ADUs


Process and Goals

The process will include citywide community outreach and engagement, and an analysis of regional and national best practices to include regulatory tools, financial mechanisms, design guidelines and other considerations. Urban Institute will provide research and outreach assistance to City staff on the project.

Project goals include:

  • Allowing for new dwelling units that are compatible with established neighborhood character;
  • Gradually increasing lower-cost housing stock;
  • Providing additional housing flexibility for residents.

Recommendations are anticipated to be presented to Planning Commission and City Council for consideration in December 2020.

Questions? Let us know!