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Updated: Nov 25, 2021

Arlington’s new Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) laws were unanimously updated on May 18, 2019. Arlington County Board members voted to adopt the changes to address Arlington’s housing shortage and expected job growth over the next 20 years. Much of this growth is due to Amazon’s HQ2 at National Landing. According to Amazon, they plan to invest $2.5 billion dollars in its second headquarters and create at least 25,000 new full-time jobs. Due to this job growth, the demand for housing will continue to rise. The increased demand for housing will likely cause higher home prices and increased rental rates. In a recent article published by ArlNow, it was reported that Arlington County expects 58,000 more residents by 2045 and “the squeeze for affordable housing is likely to worsen.”

For this reason, Arlington County will now allow home owners to build or have a secondary unit (Accessory Dwelling Unit) on an existing property. As a result, home owners can have a detached apartment in the backyard. These backyard apartments can now be used as rentals, as long as the owner of the property lives in the main house.

According to a report by ArlNow, the new regulations state that “homeowners can build an ADU on an interior lot as long as the structure is at least 5 feet away from the property lines.” Under these new rules, the county estimates that 44% of Arlington’s one-family lots are eligible to build ADUs.


Although these changes took effect in May, homeowners are just starting to take advantage of them. The decision to allow ADUs to be used as rentals can help change Arlington’s real estate landscape. If homeowners take advantage of the new zoning laws, there will be more homes available to rent. The County’s goal is to increase the supply of real estate inventory long-term in order to keep up with the projected demand. With additional real estate, inventory will be more abundant and pricing more stable, while residents can live closer to where they work. Even though home prices have increased, the belief is that the long-term effect of ADUs will boost the overall rental opportunities in Arlington.


The ADU laws change the way that existing Arlington homeowners should look at their properties. Currently, if you own a home in Arlington and are tight on space, you can now build or turn an existing structure into an accessory dwelling unit. This is great for a parents-in-law suite, for an au pair, or even to generate additional income. We foresee ADUs becoming an incentive for creating resale value. In Arlington, the median home sales price is $750,000. Under the new rules, nearly half of the properties qualify for accessory dwelling units. If a house is walk-able to the metro, a bedroom commonly rents for $800 – $1,100 a month. With prices going up for properties with accessory dwelling units, the incentive to build an ADU is increased home value and rental income.


If you are considering buying a home in Arlington County or you are homeowner who would like to build an Accessory Dwelling Unit, it is important to consider the zoning of the property. Before purchasing or building, consider the size. The setbacks of the land must comply with the new zoning laws before a new structure can be built. Be sure to talk with a professional, such as an architect, realtor, or a combination of the two. If you want to submit an application to build an accessory dwelling unit or just have some real estate questions, give us a call or send us an email. We will walk you through the process and answer any questions that you may have. Most importantly, we offer FREE, no-obligation consultations.

Speak with one of our Real Estate experts today! (571) 249-3551 or


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