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 Jul 21, 2020 at 3:03 PM

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 April 23, 2020)

Community Engagement Opportunities

  • SECOND PRESENTATION POSTED JULY 15: Staff has recorded a second presentation that summarizes initial community feedback received, addresses questions asked and explains how the City's Zoning Ordinance currently regulates ADUs. Please watch the presentation at this link and share your thoughts here. Comments are welcome at any time but please try to send your feedback by August 10. A presentation without audio or video can be found at this link.
  • The introductory presentation, posted April 17, can be found at this link. It provides 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.
  • Two in-person community meetings originally scheduled for last month were canceled due to the COVID-19 public emergency. These meetings were retooled for online engagement. The City and Urban Institute are committed to engaging the community and obtaining feedback throughout the study period and notifications for further engagement opportunities will be provided. A virtual open house will be held mid-August, prior to Planning Commission and City Council hearings in the fall. The date for the virtual open house will be confirmed by July 31.

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 Fall 2020.

Questions? Let us know!