Dec 8, 2022 - Real Estate

Richmond’s plan for more granny flats and in-law suites

An illustration of a house being measured by a large hand.

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

City officials want to make it easier for homeowners to build a second, smaller house in their backyard.

What's happening: A new proposal would allow accessory dwelling units — sometimes referred to as in-law suites or granny flats — to be constructed in any single-family-zoned neighborhood without any special approval.

Why it matters: It's one of three major zoning changes officials unveiled this week following months of public meetings and studies broadly aimed at increasing the supply of housing in the city while making life easier for businesses.

State of play: Currently, accessory dwelling units must be individually approved by the city's planning commission.

  • Under the new code, they'd be allowed by right.
  • The size of the unit, which could be freestanding or attached, would be limited to a third of the size of the primary house or 500 square feet, whichever is greater.

🅿️ A second proposal would eliminate all minimum parking requirements from the city's zoning code.

  • At a meeting earlier this week, planners described it as a chance to redevelop surface parking lots downtown, lower the cost of building new housing and make it easier for small businesses to open.
  • One example: Under current city code, the building that used to house the restaurant Mojo's is required to have 23 off-street spaces. An exemption is grandfathered in, but if a new business moved in, they would have to spend time and money to get a new special use permit, officials said.

Worth noting: City officials stressed most developers would likely still provide parking.

  • A study of 50 recent projects by the city's planning department counted 12,646 parking spaces — 7,857 more than required under current zoning laws.

🛏️ Last, officials are proposing loosening licensing requirements for Airbnbs and other short-term rentals.

  • The changes include eliminating a residency requirement but setting limits on how many rentals would be allowed per neighborhood and building.

What's next: The city is still holding information sessions, with a virtual meeting tonight at 6pm.

  • The proposals go before the Richmond City Council next year.
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