Bring Back the Accessory Dwelling Unit

picture of an ADU in Arlington with white siding and a green roof
A backyard ADU in Arlington, VA. Source: ARLnow

Citizens and lawmakers are debating whether to legalize new Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) in the City of Fredericksburg. ADUs are small residential units that are built as accessories to existing single-family homes. They are complete homes, but are typically less than 500 square feet in area. ADUs are currently illegal due to zoning restrictions implemented in the 1960s.

ADUs come in many different forms. Common types include basement or attic apartments (a.k.a. mother-in-law suites or granny flats), backyard cottages, apartments built over garages, or homes retrofitted from existing garages. Their versatility and modesty allow ADUs to fit seamlessly into residential neighborhoods alongside detached single family homes. 

ADUs are already widespread in Fredericksburg and represent an essential part of what makes our City so special. Despite being prohibited by zoning regulations for almost 60 years, over 90 “grandfathered” ADUs are known to exist within the city limits according to the Fredericksburg Planning Department. Many of those ADUs are considered historic in their own right.

Map of the City of Fredericksburg showing existing grandfathered ADUs
Existing ADUs in the City of Fredericksburg as of 2022. Source: Fredericksburg Planning Department.
Fred15’s Take: Fred15 unequivocally supports the legalization of new accessory dwelling units throughout the City of Fredericksburg. We are confident that an ADU ordinance that appropriately regulates size and residency will make Fredericksburg a more livable and better connected City. After 60 years of prohibition, ADUs can again be a valuable tool to address City’s housing challenges, allow for environmentally sustainable living patterns, and strengthen the financial resiliency of our city’s homeowners–if we give them the chance.

Here are some more specific reasons that we support ADUs:

  • ADUs provide workforce housing for the people who make Fredericksburg such a great place to live.  Fredericksburgers love the small businesses and local organizations that contribute so much to our quality of life.  But all of our favorite spots employ people who often have to live far away because they can’t find or afford a place in the City.  ADUs would allow our favorite bartenders, our kids’ teachers, and our local beat cops to live where they work and be true neighbors in the community if that’s what they want.  Making more workforce housing available is important both for the City’s workers and for its employers, and it is critical to ensuring the City’s continued economic growth.
  • ADUs allow our seniors to age in place, and our young adults to make a life in the City.  Many existing ADUs–and future ADUs–are occupied by family members of the homeowner.  Seniors use them to keep living in the community, to retain individual mobility, and to remain engaged in the life of the City. Young adults use them to remain in their home community, save money, and live independently from their families.  ADUs give extended families the flexibility to accommodate all generations.
  • ADUs provide homeowners with the financial resilience necessary to stay in their homes amid rising housing costs.  Property values are going up fast in the City of Fredericksburg, which presents a challenge not only for first-time homebuyers but also for long-term residents who face increasing taxes and costs.  Giving those long-time homeowners an opportunity to rent an ADU will allow them to build the financial resilience necessary to stay in their homes and keep our longstanding communities intact.
  • ADUs are an alternative to sprawl.  We all know that the Fredericksburg region is growing, and that more population growth is headed our way.  If we don’t find a way for people to live within our existing footprint of development, that growth is going to drive even more sprawl, which destroys our beautiful countryside, exacerbates our traffic problems, and causes massive environmental damage.  ADUs present an alternative to the sprawl that is choking our City.
  • ADUs enable a car-light lifestyle for more Fredericksburgers.  Most people in our region probably wish that they had to drive less to go about their daily business.  Indeed, that’s the whole point of Fifteen Minute Fredericksburg!  Allowing ADUs in our older, more walkable neighborhoods would allow more Fredericksburgers to enjoy a car-light lifestyle where they can live much of their life on foot or on their bikes.  Fewer cars means a happier and healthier citizenry, a cleaner and greener environment, and less traffic and fewer parking challenges for everyone. 
  • ADUs restore property rights to homeowners.  Current single-family zoning is overly restrictive on our homeowners, controlling what they can and can’t do with their home.  Indeed, zoning regulates how many ovens you can have in your house–if you have more than one, you may have accidentally built an illegal ADU!  Legalizing ADUs citywide would give all homeowners much needed flexibility in using their properties as they see fit.

For all these reasons and more, Fred15 enthusiastically supports the legalization of ADUs throughout the City of Fredericksburg.


One thought on “Bring Back the Accessory Dwelling Unit”

  1. I support adus and believe restricting homeowners is overreaching and unfriendly, at best. We need to have a city with options for change as family needs change. Fred is not a gated community. It’s urban and thriving with a sense of humor and a nod to history.

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