Changes to D.C.’s zoning code have been in the works for years. They’re scheduled to take effect this year. If you want to build or buy in the District, now is the time to learn about those changes and what they can mean to you.

One change will let more homeowners add an accessory apartment to their current home, generating income to offset a mortgage or as part of a long-term financial plan.  The new zoning will do away with special permit requirements, and give homeowners more options as to what they can build.

This kind of development adds to the city’s inventory of affordable housing and gives homeowners long-term stability. Boomers or seniors who want to age in place would be able to keep their homes by developing a rental unit, as the Office of Planning notes.

Moving retail back into the neighborhoods is another goal the new rules address. Corner stores have been gradually squeezed out of many neighborhoods in recent years. The Zoning Commission proposes to loosen some restrictions that have been in place, to create opportunities for food stores, art studios, and general retail.  

Growing a robust inventory of properties and adjusting to changing demographics are driving many of these new zoning laws. Home buyers who want to live car free have been moving to the District, and the demand for parking has continued to go down.  So changes are being made to parking minimums in new construction in the District.

If a building goes up near Metro, for example, new rules will reduce the amount of dedicated parking that has to be built, so developers can devote more space to dwelling units. The new rules take ride-sharing and other means of transportation into account as well.

The changes that will happen in D.C. are just part of a bigger picture. Urbanturf reports on legislation currently making its way through the house that would give condo owners a tax break on their homeowner association fees. The bill, the Helping Our Middle-Income Earners (HOME) Act, would allow qualified condo-dwellers to deduct up to $5,000 in condo or HOA fees each year.
The rules that govern how you use your property will seriously change by year’s end, and will continue to change. If you’re a long-time owner, there may be new opportunities for you. Aspiring retailers will have access to an expanding inventory of potential store sites.  How will the new zoning laws affect you? Consult with a zoning and land use attorney before you buy or sell, and learn how the latest changes in the law can help you maximize your transaction.