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Why Did Arlington Virginia End Single-Family-Only Zoning?

Why did Arlington Virginia end single-family-only zoning? This insightful blog post will delve into the reasons behind this significant change in housing policy and provide an overview of Arlington's decision to phase out single-family zoning, and its potential impact on housing affordability.

Why Did Arlington Virginia End Single-Family-Only Zoning

We'll explore the Missing Middle Housing Plan, which aims to provide a diverse range of housing options for residents. Additionally, we'll discuss how this departure from traditional Smart Growth Philosophy has been influenced by public consultation and community input.

Finally, our examination of national trends towards zoning reform will be complemented by a comparison of crime rates in Minneapolis and Portland – two cities that have also implemented similar changes. By understanding why Arlington Virginia ended single-family-only zoning, you'll gain valuable knowledge about the future direction of urban planning and development strategies across the nation.

Table of Contents:

Understanding Missing Middle Housing

The term "missing middle" refers to multi-unit residential buildings that provide diverse and affordable housing options in neighborhoods traditionally dominated by single-family homes. These developments aim to increase density without drastically altering neighborhood character or overwhelming existing infrastructure, offering a solution for addressing the nation's ongoing housing shortage.

  • Diverse housing types: Missing middle housing includes townhouses, duplexes, triplexes, and small apartment buildings.

  • Affordability: By providing more housing options, missing middle developments can help lower overall costs for homebuyers.

  • Sustainable growth: Increased density within existing neighborhoods helps reduce urban sprawl and supports public transit use.

Why Did Arlington Virginia End Single-Family-Only Zoning

According to The Arlington County Board, the inclusion of intermediate housing is essential for the construction of a more equitable and diverse real estate market, enabling access to cost-effective living options. With Arlington's Expanded Housing Options Policy, the city is taking steps towards phasing out single-family-only zoning in order to provide its residents with even more varied housing choices.

Arlington's Expanded Housing Options Policy

The Arlington County Board recently approved an ambitious missing middle housing plan that ends single-family-only zoning. Under this policy, lots previously designated only for detached houses can now accommodate townhouses, duplexes, and small buildings with up to four or even six units depending on lot size. This change will be phased into effect over five years starting July 1st.

Phasing out of single-family-only zoning

This progressive move aims to increase the availability of diverse housing options in Arlington County by gradually eliminating restrictive single-family zoning rules. As a result, more multifamily housing opportunities will emerge within residential neighborhoods.

Allowing more diverse housing types

The new policy encourages the development of various residential unit types such as townhouses and duplexes alongside traditional single family homes. By providing a wider range of choices for potential homebuyers, Arlington hopes to address affordability concerns while maintaining neighborhood character.

Arlington's Expanded Housing Options Policy has been a success in allowing for more diverse housing types, however this policy departs from the Smart Growth Philosophy that was previously embraced. Next, we will explore how Arlington is navigating these changes to create equitable and sustainable communities.

Departure from Smart Growth Philosophy

The new policy in Arlington County marks a significant shift away from its previous philosophy, which focused on encouraging density along mass-transit lines while keeping it minimal elsewhere. By allowing increased development throughout the county, officials hope to address affordability issues faced by many prospective homebuyers seeking properties within their budget in areas like Arlington. However, the philosophy does assume prospective buyers prefer multifamily housing over single family detached housing.

A movement away from traditional zoning regulations is occurring across the U.S., and Arlington County's policy shift is a part of this trend. Cities such as Minneapolis and Portland, Oregon, have also implemented similar measures aimed at relaxing single-family zoning rules to increase housing options and promote diversity within neighborhoods.

The departure from the Smart Growth philosophy was a difficult decision to make, but it ultimately resulted in greater flexibility for Arlington's zoning regulations. Public input and feedback from local residents were key to making the transition away from Smart Growth, offering a wealth of knowledge that enabled more adaptable zoning rules in Arlington.

Public Consultation and Community Input

Arlington County recognized the importance of public input in shaping its Missing Middle Housing Study. Over 200 residents participated in consultations, sharing their concerns and support for increasing diversity in Arlington's housing market. While some community members opposed the move due to fears of higher land prices and strain on local infrastructure, others saw potential benefits such as improved affordability.

  • Concerns: Higher land prices, increased traffic, overcrowded schools, shrinking availability of detached single family homes

  • Proposed Benefits: Improved affordability, diverse housing options, more inclusive neighborhoods

The county carefully considered this feedback before implementing changes to end single-family zoning and expand housing options for Arlington residents.

Public consultation and community input is essential for the successful implementation of zoning reform, and it is encouraging to see that Arlington Virginia has taken this step towards progress. The next heading will look at how national trends are leading the way in creating more inclusive zoning regulations.

National Trend Towards Zoning Reform

As the need for affordable housing continues to grow, cities across the United States are exploring ways to address this issue. Arlington's decision to end single-family zoning follows in the footsteps of other progressive cities like Minneapolis and Portland, Oregon, which have also implemented similar measures aimed at relaxing zoning rules. However, Arlington goes a step further by allowing up to six residential units on certain lots under specific conditions.

  • Minneapolis: In 2018, Minneapolis became the first major U.S. city to eliminate single-family-only zoning as part of its comprehensive plan update.

  • Portland: Portland followed suit in August 2023 with its Residential Infill Project (RIP), which allows more diverse housing types within existing neighborhoods.

This trend reflects an ongoing national conversation around how best to address housing affordability issues while maintaining neighborhood character and diversity. By ending single-family zoning, Arlington County is taking a step towards creating more housing options for its residents. The missing middle housing plan will allow for more multifamily housing and residential units, which will help to address the growing demand for affordable housing in the area.

The national trend towards zoning reform has been encouraging, as it promises to make housing more affordable and accessible. Potential impacts on affordability will be explored in the next heading, including developer incentives and market adjustments that could lead to price reductions.

Potential Impact on Housing Affordability

Ending single-family zoning and allowing more diverse housing options, such as missing middle housing, can contribute to improving overall affordability in Arlington County. While missing middle housing is not specifically designed for the lowest-income Americans, it can still provide more affordable options.

  • Developer incentives: The new policy could include incentives for developers to create affordable units within their multifamily projects, further addressing affordability concerns.

  • Market adjustments and price reductions: As supply increases with the introduction of townhouses, duplexes, and small buildings with multiple residential units, homebuyers might find more accessible options. For example, newly developed duplexes in Arlington are expected to cost above $1.1 million initially but may become more attainable as the market adjusts.

Incorporating these changes into Arlington's real estate landscape will require ongoing evaluation of their impact on housing affordability while maintaining neighborhood character and diversity.


In conclusion, Arlington Virginia's decision to end single-family-only zoning is part of a larger effort to promote "missing middle" housing options and depart from the traditional smart growth philosophy. The policy was developed through extensive public consultation and phased implementation, with considerations for affordability and market dynamics.

Stay up-to-date on the changes to Arlington Virginia's zoning policy and their potential effects on the local real estate market by contacting Winkelmann Properties. To learn more about available properties or sell your home in this evolving market, contact Winkelmann Properties today.

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