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 Dec 28, 2020 at 1:13 PM

What's Next?

Final staff recommendations can be found here (navigate to docket item #6 and click on the attachments) and are scheduled to be considered by Planning Commission at the January 5, 2021 public hearing and City Council at the January 23, 2021 public hearing. 

Comments can be sent to staff, Planning Commission and/or made at the hearing. The Zoom link and instructions for the virtual Planning Commission hearing can be found here on page two of the docket.

Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) 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!