Alexandria Sets Up “Granny Flat” Public Meetings

"While these units alone will certainly not solve the housing crisis, they do fill an important gap," says the City's press release.

This little guest house or office built in a backyard in Alexandria might be a good example of an Accessory Dwelling Unit. [Photo: copyright Mary Wadland/2015]
ALEXANDRIA, VA – Hip urban planners call them Accessory Dwelling Units, but they are really just in-law apartments, guest cottages, and “granny flats” and Alexandria wants your feedback on what should and should not be acceptable as it explores options to aid in the Affordable Housing crisis.

In March, the City of Alexandria will begin a series of community meetings to discuss establishing regulations for ADUs. The first meeting will be held Thursday, March 12, at 7 p.m. at the Mount Vernon Recreation Center located at 2701 Commonwealth Avenue. A second meeting will be held on Monday, March 28 at 7 p.m. at the Beatley Library located at 5005 Duke Street.

Part of the outreach efforts will also include a short survey that will launch after the initial March 12 meeting to gauge resident opinions on ADU implementation options.  A third meeting to discuss the findings of the initial open houses and survey will be held in early April.

What Does the City Consider an ADU?

An ADU, commonly referred to as an “in-law apartment” or “granny flat” is a second, separate living unit.

ADUs can be built by converting a basement into an apartment, adding an addition to an existing house, building an apartment over a garage, converting an existing detached garage, or building a new backyard cottage.

An ADU is distinguished from renting out part of a house because it is a totally separate living unit, with a separate entrance, bathroom, and kitchen.

ADUs are a housing option intended to provide flexibility to homeowners and increase the variety of housing options and price points, consistent with the scale and character of residential neighborhoods.

ADUs were common in homes until the 1950’s and have reemerged as a popular solution for families that have relatives who want to live independently, but close by – such as an older grandparent or an adult child with disabilities. Also, the income provided by renting an ADU can make the difference in allowing seniors to age in place as the cost of living grows or allowing new families to be able to afford to buy a home in increasingly expensive areas. Finally, ADU’s provide more affordable housing options for the city’s workforce, including recent graduates and young professionals.

Alexandria’s Affordable Housing Crisis

The creation of an ADU program is part of City Council’s 2020 Workplan and its efforts to ensure that affordable, quality housing is available to residents at all income levels. “While these units alone will certainly not solve the housing crisis, they do fill an important gap,” says the City’s press release.

The outcome of the study will include proposed development standards and regulations to allow ADUs throughout the city. Proposed development standards and regulations are expected to go to the Planning Commission and City Council in the summer of 2020 for their consideration.

For more information including future meeting dates and locations and a link to the survey (active on March 12), visit the project webpage at or contact Sam Shelby, Urban Planner, 703.746.3865.

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