At our Board of Supervisors meeting Tuesday, my colleagues and I approved changes to our Affordable Dwelling Unit (ADU) and Workforce Dwelling Unit (WDU) policy in both Tysons and across the county. These changes will serve as a tool to increase the number of affordable units built by private developers for our fellow residents who need them most. This crucial step to support housing justice is a part of our county’s priority to address these issues that were already concerns before COVID-19, and have become even more acute today.
An additional tool we are considering to provide support and flexibility for our community is reviewing and updating our county’s zoning policies.
The Fairfax County zoning ordinance modernization project (zMOD) recognizes the need to update and modernize our zoning ordinance. Our One Fairfax Equity Policy states that a crucial part of equity is housing policies that encourage all who want to live in Fairfax to be able to do so, and the provision of a full spectrum of housing opportunities across the county. These zMOD updates seek to ask the question “how do we apply equitable housing and home business restrictions that are in line with our neighboring jurisdictions and do not target our minority communities and most vulnerable residents?”
The culmination of a multiyear process, with 89 public meetings, numerous revisions, the county has an updated zMOD that we believe will address many of our equity and efficiency concerns with gradual and thoughtful changes.
In particular, there has been quite a bit of attention on Accessory Living Units (ALU’s) and Home-based Businesses. Accessory Living Units are additional living spaces on a property, such as basements or garages with separate kitchens. Home-based businesses are any businesses that are conducted from a home and require a permit. The current trends have shown major gaps in how our current ordinance addresses and enforces these matters.
Currently, ALU’s are restricted to residences where someone in the house either has a disability or is 55+. We are considering removing this restriction. The addition of a kitchen to the accessory living space requires applying for a special permit. In addition there are standards that the county requires for the ALU’s to ensure the residential character of the neighborhood is maintained-for example, a limit of two occupants and a requirement for parking.
Some county priorities:
- There is a great need for affordable and workforce housing in our county, now more than ever. It is expensive to live in Fairfax County. One Fairfax states our commitment to “Housing policies that encourage all who want to live in Fairfax to be able to do so, and the provision of a full spectrum of housing opportunities across the county, most notably those in mixed-use areas that are accessible to multiple modes of transport.”
- People who need housing come from all walks of life. We often have a very narrow idea as to who needs affordable housing. The reality is that many folks in the county need housing. That includes our 55 and up residents and residents who are differently abled. It also includes essential workers, teachers, firefighters, first responders, restaurant employees, childcare workers, and more.
- Many people risk losing their homes if they are not able to apply flexibility to their living situation. We have residents who need space for their family members to live while they get on their feet, and others who recently lost their jobs and need a more affordable option within their community.
- Environmental Stewardship: In order to help protect our natural environment, we need to look at options to repurpose and adapt existing structures throughout the county to offer options beyond new construction.
While ALUs do not fix all these problems, the added flexibility for our most vulnerable residents can be part of the solution. Below, I have put together some resources to help you better understand what an ALU is and what is proposed to change. Most importantly, your voice matters. The Board of Supervisors will have a public hearing on March 9th regarding zMOD. It is easier than ever to share your thoughts:
You can prepare video testimony to share: Click Here
Thank you for commitment to helping build a county that works for everyone.
Dalia Palchik, Providence District Supervisor