Fears Over Immigrants Stymie Accessory Unit Ordinance

Planners in Arlington, Virginia want to allow rental units in single family neighborhoods, but residents are strongly opposed to the proposal, many of them worried that the units will attract low-income immigrants.

"Arlington County, which prides itself on racial tolerance and economic diversity and has sneered at anti-immigrant policies in nearby jurisdictions, now finds itself facing some of the same questions.

Many longtime residents are voicing fears that a new zoning proposal will bring an influx of immigrants and poor people. Support for affordable housing initiatives is almost an article of faith in the Democrat-dominated enclave, but the proposal to allow rental units in single-family neighborhoods is challenging that orthodoxy.

At issue is an effort by housing advocates to amend Arlington's zoning ordinance to allow homeowners in single-family neighborhoods to build rental units on their properties. The additional housing would be limited to 750 square feet and permitted only on properties occupied by their owners and would presumably rent for less money than stand-alone housing.

"This won't solve the housing crisis, but it will help," said architect Susan Retz, former chairman of the county Housing Commission. She chairs the Alliance for Housing Solutions, a nonprofit advocacy group.

The issue won't reach the County Board for the first time until Tuesday, but an increasing number of residents are up in arms about the proposal, which they say they think would worsen parking problems, traffic congestion and crowding and increase the number of absentee landlords and illegal immigrants."

Full Story: Zoning Plan Stirs Uneasy Questions In Arlington


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