Take Action: Speak-up for Accessory Dwelling Units in Alexandria

The City of Alexandria is developing a policy to make Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) a viable option for providing more affordable housing in the city. They just released draft ADU policy recommendations and want to hear what you think. Please take a moment to complete a short ADU survey to show your support for making accessory dwellings a success in Alexandria. 


ADUs can offer less expensive housing options than renting or buying a single-family home because of their smaller size.They are great for an aging parent you are caring for, offer a home for your recent college graduate, or a young professional just starting their career. ADUs can also offer a stream of income for homeowners, including retirees on fixed incomes.

Overall, the draft recommendations are very good. The owner occupancy requirement is one area that could be improved. While this requirement is common among local jurisdictions, it lacks flexibility for the homeowner and may limit one’s ability to build an ADU. Eliminating this requirement would encourage more ADUs. 

Here’s a breakdown on the draft recommendations:

  • Allows detached ADUs (ie. garage apartment, backyard cottage) and interior ADUs (ie. English basements) on properties zoned for single, two-family and townhouses city-wide. This is great!
  • Establishes an owner-occupancy requirement. Eliminating this requirement would offer a stronger ADU policy. 
  • No additional off-street parking is required for the ADU. We support this helfpul provision that prioritizes using valuable land to house people. It also helps reduce the amount of impervious surface needed on the property.  
  • Restricts ADU occupancy to one family. This provision seems reasonable since Alexandria’s zoning code permits not only a family related by blood but also includes nontraditional families and roommates for up to four unrelated people. 
  • Requires an administrative permit for the construction of an ADU. This is less onerous than making ADUs a special exemption that requires a more costly and time consuming process. 
  • Establishes a maximum ADU height and square footage that won’t exceed the main house. This is a reasonable approach to ensuring the ADU is smaller in scale to the main house and compatible with the neighborhood. 
  • Maintains setback requirements and floor area ratio exclusions consistent with current building and zoning codes for other types of accessory buildings, like garages.
  • Current city policies allowing short-term rentals will be applied to ADUs also. 

Take the ADU survey today to tell them what you support and suggest how they can make it even better!

The City is taking feedback on its draft ADU policy recommendations through this Friday, November 6. Input received will further refine final recommendations for Planning Commission and City Council consideration in December. Visit Alexandria’s ADU webpage for more information. 

Thank you for your support,

Sonya Breehey
Northern Virginia Advocacy Manager