Best Zoning Change in 2016: Accessory Dwellings

  • December 20th 2016

by Nena Perry-Brown

UrbanTurf usually stays away from publishing rankings or lists…except at the end of the year when we look back at what DC’s residential real estate scene had to offer during the previous 12 months. So, this week we are looking at not only the best but the most intriguing and peculiar things that came across our radar over the course of 2016. Enjoy.

Best Zoning Change in 2016: Accessory Dwellings: Figure 1
Rendering of accessory dwelling unit at 3406 Rodman Street NW

Several amendments to the District’s zoning code were enacted in September, from an overarching relabeling of the entire zone system to more nuanced rule changes. One of the most interesting and potentially game-changing allowances is by-right accessory apartments.

Accessory apartments are additional residences located on the same lot as a single-family dwelling, like English basements and carriage houses. Traditionally, homeowners in low-density neighborhoods were required to seek a special exception from the Board of Zoning Adjustment in order to rent out an accessory apartment.

Now, however, all accessory apartments and alley dwellings will be allowed to be built by-right (except in Georgetown). Size restrictions are also being amended, with an allowable square footage reduced from 2,000 to 1,200 and up to one-third (rather than one-fourth) of the main house’s total footprint.

While homeowners will still have to acquire a Residential Rental Business License from the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs in order to rent their accessory apartments, many hope that this newly-relaxed restriction will increase the available housing stock and help keep prices affordable in many neighborhoods.

And some are already taking advantage of the change.

One Cleveland Park homeowner quickly had a carriage house approved by the Historic Preservation Review Board, while DC-based architectural firm R. Michael Cross Design Group is offering a suite of accessory dwelling plans to simplify the process for homeowners. And on one block in Chevy Chase DC, three accessory units have started construction since the new rule was enacted.

This article originally published at https://dc.urbanturf.com/articles/blog/best_zoning_change_in_2016_accessory_dwellings/11975.

DC Real Estate Guides

Short guides to navigating the DC-area real estate market

We've collected all our helpful guides for buying, selling and renting in and around Washington, DC in one place. Start browsing below!