DCRA: New Multifamily Construction in Some DC Zones to Require BZA Approval

by Nena Perry-Brown

As UrbanTurf reported earlier this year, the DC area is facing a housing shortage that will necessitate production of over 25,000 additional housing units annually. Now, it is about to get harder to build multi-family properties in some parts of DC proper.

Yesterday, the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs released guidance regarding the provision that multi-family construction cannot be built in the RA-1 and RA-6 zones without a special zoning exception. In practical terms, this meant that developers in these zones must apply to the Board of Zoning Adjustment before being eligible for permits to build a multi-family property. As of January 1st, this regulation will also apply to expansions of existing properties in cases where the number of units and gross floor area would, at minimum, double, or where the numbers of units increases by at least 10.

Map of RA-1 (red) and RA-6 (blue) zones. Click to enlarge.
An interactive version is available here.

The "RA" in these zone titles stands for "Residential Apartment", a nod to the prevalence of low- to moderate-density multi-family buildings in these zones interspersed with detached and attached single-family dwellings. Both zones permit by-right construction as high as 40 feet or three stories; the RA-6 zone in particular, however, refers solely to the neighborhood surrounding the Naval Observatory.

As shown in the above map, the majority of the 76 tracts zoned as RA-1 are east of the Anacostia River, where multi-family development is already prevalent; many of the other tracts are dispersed in corridors which are less friendly toward new multi-family development, including parts of Spring Valley and Cathedral Heights. UrbanTurf will be interested to see how or whether this new stipulation will impact the pace and location of development overall in the District.

Clarification: The article earlier stated that new multi-family construction would require special exception in these zones as of January. A special exception for new multi-family construction was always required in these zones; the new guidance pertains to expansion of existing properties.

This article originally published at https://dc.urbanturf.com/articles/blog/per-dcra-new-multifamily-construction-in-some-zones-to-require-bza-approval/14777

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