Land Use Tools

Land use tools are used by the County to leverage housing affordability opportunities. This initiative will explore the creative use of new and existing land use and zoning mechanisms to expand both affordable and missing middle housing.

There are six components within the Land Use Tools initiative:

Accessory Dwelling Regulations Update

Status: Complete.

In November 2017, the Arlington County Board adopted an ordinance updating the accessory dwelling regulations in the Zoning Ordinance, which governs second dwellings with a kitchen, bathroom, and a separate entrance on existing single-family lots. In 2019, the County Board adopted additional zoning regulations allowing stand-alone accessory dwellings on the rear of lots to encourage an adequate and flexible supply of housing to meet community needs, as well as provide support so that older adults can age in place.

Elder Care Zoning Study

Status: In process.

Staff has substantially completed a zoning study to expand the potential locations in the County for licensed assisted living and elder care facilities, and to clarify the zoning and development standards for these types of uses. Based on the study recommendations, the County Board amended the Zoning Ordinance in December 2019. Previously, Arlington’s zoning regulations strictly limited the possible locations for new assisted living facilities and nursing homes. A central goal of the County’s zoning update was to permit elder care housing in additional zoning districts that already allow multifamily residential and commercial/mixed use development. In January 2020, the County Board will consider an additional amendment to allow elder care uses in the C-3 zoning district, which the amendments adopted in 2019 did not address.

Bonus Density

Status: Complete.

Bonus density provisions in the Zoning Ordinance allow developers to increase the size and height of buildings in exchange for contributions toward community facilities, on-site committed affordable units, or, in limited cases, contributions to the Affordable Housing Investment Fund (AHIF). Over the past 15 years, these amounts have been substantial:

  • $49,407,595 in contributions in lieu of on-site units
  • 336 on-site Committed Affordable Units (CAFs)

Under Housing Arlington, staff analyzed existing bonus density provisions in the Zoning Ordinance and recommended changes.

In November 2019 the County Board eliminated bonus density maximums for site plan projects that provide affordable housing or community facilities. The Zoning Ordinance had capped how much additional density a project could gain through special exception site plan review. Removing the caps will allow the County to consider bonus density, where appropriate, on a case-by-case basis. This approach could in turn yield more opportunities to support housing affordability.

Plan Langston Boulevard

Status: In process.

Building on visioning work by the Lee Highway community in 2016, the County is leading a multi-year community planning process that takes a closer look at the long-term goals for this important corridor and its surrounding areas. This vision calls for Lee Highway to become a walkable, urban main street with a string of neighborhood activity centers between Rosslyn and East Falls Church, along with new transportation and housing options, better public spaces and more. The study area includes properties along the Lee Highway frontage with commercial and multi-family uses, as well as several discrete areas of low-density residential uses.

Multifamily Reinvestment Study

Status: In process.

This study began as the Housing Conservation District (HCD) study but has been expanded and renamed.

The Multifamily Reinvestment Study seeks ways to stem the loss of market-rate affordable housing that occurs in multifamily apartment communities when property owners rehabilitate, redevelop, or add new units. The study also addresses the need to support increased housing development Countywide and is exploring how new land use policy and zoning tools might help meet these goals.

Missing Middle Housing Study

Status: In process. Phase 2.

The Missing Middle Housing Study will explore how preservation and construction of more housing types, such as duplexes and triplexes, could help increase Arlington’s housing supply and choices.

Staff has compiled a Research Compendium and continues to build a network of community partners.

See the Missing Middle homepage for opportunities to get involved and provide feedback.

Missing Middle Housing Study Timeline and Engagement Opportunities