The Zoning Ordinance allows both accessory dwellings and family/caregiver suites, although there are a few key distinctions between the two, as well as several restrictions associated with accessory dwellings.
An accessory dwelling is a second dwelling with kitchen, bathroom, and separate entrance on a single family lot. A Family/caregiver suite is a space with not more than two rooms plus a bathroom and efficiency kitchen.
- The County Board only allows up to 28 new accessory dwellings a year, although number that does not include bringing existing ADs into code compliance.
- Only one accessory dwelling would be allowed per lot, and only as a part of the main dwelling, not as a separate building.
- The homeowner must occupy the house for a minimum of one year immediately prior to approval of a new AD Permit.
- The size of the accessory dwelling is limited to no more than 750 square feet. Learn more about maximum size restrictions here.
- The owner must agree to cooperate with Code Enforcement staff for annual inspections and in
response to complaints.
- Up to two persons, who may be unrelated to the homeowners, could be housed in the accessory dwelling.
- The lot must meet minimum lot area requirements of its zoning district and must have an average
width of at least 50 feet.
- There are additional building code implications for homes with two-dwelling units, outlined here.
- The maximum size is 500 square feet.
- It may only be occupied by up to two persons who may be either: 1) related to the occupants of the main dwelling by blood, marriage, adoption or foster care; or 2) unrelated to the occupants of the main dwelling, provided that one of the suite occupants is a caregiver for an elder, a person with a disability or a child who is an occupant of the main dwelling.
These changes were made in 2008 and came after months of public discussion and review by civic associations and County advisory boards. Board members said the moves will accomplish several goals:
- Help elders age in place
- Increase the stock of affordable housing, with little government investment
- Provide an income stream for homeowners to reduce housing costs
Accessory Dwelling Application
Creating an accessory dwelling will typically require some construction work and building permits, as well as an accessory building permit. The Zoning Administrator will certify that the building code, Zoning Ordinance and parking requirements (outlined below) are met prior to issuing the AD permit.
Requirements and resources:
- Accessory dwelling application packet: includes filing instructions, application, accessory dwelling record, accessory dwelling covenant, affidavit of compliance, and the preoccupancy permit application
- Top tips for success and building code implications
- Residential Building Permit Application
- Parking requirements: The AD permit application triggers a parking survey. If the block is more than 65% parked and there are one or two existing standard-sized off-street spaces, then those spaces must be maintained; and if there are no existing off-street standard-sized spaces, one off-street parking space must be created. The space added must be standard size. If existing spaces which are required to be maintained have direct access to the street, that accessibility must be preserved.
- Size limits: The maximum size of the accessory dwelling can be:
1) 50% of main dwelling (or 1/3 of total AD and main dwelling combined), up to a maximum of 750 sq. ft.; or
2) in a main dwelling smaller than 1000 sq. ft., ADs may be a maximum of 80% of the main dwelling, up to a maximum of 500 sq .ft.
For ADs, Gross Floor Area (GFA) is defined as including all floor area within the inside perimeter of the exterior walls, including basement, corridors, stairways, closets and interior walls.
3) See maximum size examples and a worksheet here.
- Design requirements:
1) The AD cannot have a separate door on the same side of the house as the main entrance.
2) An AD on a corner lot cannot have its entrance visible from the street.
3) Exterior stairs to a 2nd floor dwelling cannot be visible from the street.
4) Staff will develop a voluntary style guide for owners considering additions to their homes.
- Home occupations: Home occupations are permitted in the AD, except “Contractor and Service Business,” but are not permitted to have employees on the premises, except in the case of an employee providing assistance to a person with disability who resides in the AD.
- There is a $209 permit fee, plus a 10% Automation Enhancement Fee. Applicants will be required to pay fees for the Residential Building Permit Application and trade permits, the Certificate of Occupancy and to record the deed covenant.
Family/Caregiver Suites Application
Creating a family/caregiver suite has the same requirements and permits as adding an addition to your home, although with the additional restrictions mentioned above.
- Family/caregiver suite application packet
- Residential Building Permit Application
- There is a $32 permit fee, plus a 10% Automation Enhancement Fee. Applicants will be required to pay fees for the Residential Building Permit Application and trade permits.
Applications for both an Accessory Dwelling Permit and Family/Caregiver Suite Permit are submitted to the Zoning Office, 2100 Clarendon Blvd. For questions on the application process, please contact the Zoning Office at firstname.lastname@example.org or 703-228-3883.