Could tiny living units be the solution for residents and affordable housing scarcity in Alexandria, Virginia? Authorities are now betting their best hopes for them to be so.

Minimalism is, without a doubt, a growing trend across the U.S. Many have already redefined their basic needs and resorted to reducing their living spaces. And with it, they have significantly cut back on living costs.

The practice has also inspired the City of Alexandria to introduce an enthusiastic community project. It is now developing an accessory dwelling unit (ADU) policy. As part of the process, it plans on performing citywide community outreach and engagement. The goal is expanding housing options, affordability and accessibility in neighborhoods throughout Alexandria.

Additional Space and Income in Alexandria

 

The City defines ADUs as “secondary, independent living units that typically have a separate kitchen, sleeping area and bathroom.” It says that they can assume different forms including basement apartments, converted garages or entirely new structures that the homeowners detached from their primary residences. In short, they are secondary living units that the townsfolk would call “in-law apartments” or “granny flats.”

The primary idea behind helping expand Alexandria’s ADU stock is to provide people looking for such tiny living spaces the necessary accommodation options. They include new graduates and early-career professionals. The selling point for the homeowners, on the other hand, is the rent that they will collect from their young tenants and the additional equity they will create for their property.

Besides, the City says the ADUs can also be good living options for live-in childcare and senior care providers as well as multigenerational families. With independent features such as a separate entrance, bedroom and bathroom, they would also ensure safety and privacy for their occupants.

Busy Agenda of Meetings Ahead

 

As part of the project, the City has already scheduled multiple discussions with various stakeholders.

There will be a community meeting at Mount Vernon Recreation Center this Thursday. Alexandria Federation of Civic Associations (AFCA) will then convene at the City Hall on March 25th. A second community meeting will follow it inside Ellen Coolidge Burke Library on March 30th. The City will announce additional community meetings in late April and early May.

The exact policy will take form also with scientific input from Urban Institute, a nonprofit research organization in D.C. The Institute will provide outreach assistance, too.

As a result of public feedback and research over the next three to four months, the City will develop guidelines, including consideration for size, scale, placement and parking. The Planning Commission will hear the final recommendations in July.

Multiple jurisdictions in Greater Washington have already developed an ADU policy. They include some of Alexandria’s closest neighbors such as Arlington County and D.C.