Alexandria Explores Raising Bonus Height To Boost Affordable Housing

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The City of Alexandria is proposing an expansion of the Bonus Height and Bonus Density Program, which currently permits additional density and height in exchange for affordable housing.  

The program allows developers to add density or height to a development if they commit to providing low and moderate income sales or rental housing units in conjunction with the building or project they’re applying for. The units may be provided within the project which is the subject of the permit application, or off-site with the consent of Alexandria’s director of housing and the director of planning and zoning.

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Currently, this program is only eligible in areas with height limits above 50 feet, and Alexandria is considering a proposal to lower that minimum. 

“Qualifying property owners can apply for this program through a public hearing Special Use Permit as part of their development proposal if their site meets the applicable zoning requirements and if the affordable housing criteria are met,” Karl Moritz, The City of Alexandria’s director of planning and zoning, told Commercial Observer. 

The Bonus Height program also allows for increases in floor area ratio and reductions in required off-street parking as incentives for provision of low- and moderate-income housing.

“Such a request requires a special use permit, which is subject to full staff analysis and to planning commission and city council public hearings, and the opportunity for public input,” Nancy Williams, Alexandria’s assistant director of planning and zoning, told CO. 

“Right now, that provision can only be utilized in zones with height limits above 50 feet. The proposed Bonus Height Text Amendment would allow the use of the Bonus Height Text provision in zones with a 45-foot height limit and above.” 

This is important because it will expand the number of sites that are eligible for the program, thereby offering more opportunities for the development of affordable housing. 

Approximately 15,000 low- to moderate- income Alexandria renter households (defined as households with incomes of up to $75,000) are estimated to pay more than 30 percent of their income on housing in the city, according to Patrick Silva, Alexandria’s urban planner, while some are even more cost-burdened.