A Virginia legislator wants his state to be the latest to take aim at single-family zoning to address the state’s growing housing crisis.
Ibraheem Samirah, a newly elected Virginia state delegate who represents Northern Virginia just west of Washington D.C., was part of a blue wave that gave Democrats control of both the legislative and executive branch of the state for the first time in more than two decades. Last week, Samirah introduced a bill that would allow development or redevelopment of zoned single-family homes into middle-housing residential units, commonly known as townhouses, cottages or duplexes.
“Such structures shall not require a special use permit or be subjected to any other local requirements beyond those imposed upon other authorized residential uses,” the bill reads. “Localities may regulate the siting, design and environmental standards of middle housing residential units, including setback requirements, provided that the regulations do not, individually or cumulatively, discourage the development of all middle housing types permitted through unreasonable costs or delay.”
The bill explicitly does not prohibit the construction of single-family dwellings in areas zoned to allow single-family dwellings, which Samirah took to Twitter to further explain.
I want to share these key sentences from my middle housing bill.
“Nothing in this section shall prohibit local governments from permitting (i) single-family dwellings in areas zoned to allow for single-family dwellings,”
To say this would do away with SF housing is plain wrong. pic.twitter.com/KuRv02eqUb
— Delegate Ibraheem Samirah (@IbraheemSamirah) December 24, 2019
Virginia is the latest state to follow the recent trend of allowing for the up-zoning of single-family homes as a way to increase the amount of available housing in an inventory-starved market. In August, Oregon passed a quartet of bills, including one that would eliminate single-family zoning in certain cities that met a designated population threshold.
In October, the Minneapolis City Council eliminated single-family zoning.
Proponents of missing middle housing argue that it represents a more diverse range of home sizes and price points, which leads to greater affordability and neighborhoods that can accommodate greater diversity.
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