District of Columbia Association of REALTORS® Hosts Workshop on Accessory Dwelling Units

District of Columbia Association of REALTORS® Hosts Workshop on Accessory Dwelling Units

March 2024

It’s one thing to pave the way for increased housing with zoning regulation that allows for accessory dwelling units; it’s another to cut through the confusion and red tape that might surround the novel housing format.  Last June, in an attempt to bring clarity for homeowners and mitigate the city’s affordable housing shortage, the District of Columbia Association of REALTORS® held a workshop for members featuring a panel of experts in DC’s emerging field of ADUs.  A Smart Growth Grant from the REALTOR® Party helped make it possible.

As Irene Kang, DCAR’s Vice President of Government Affairs, explains, although a 2016 change in DC zoning regulations allowed single family homeowners to build accessory dwelling units as a matter of right, there remain certain complications and barriers.  “Washington is a ‘landlocked’ jurisdiction with limited ways to increase housing, but there is a real need to do just that.  Even though, technically, the new zoning allows a way forward, it is still experiencing initial ‘growing pains,’ so to speak.  So, when Cheryl Cort approached us about offering a workshop to help our members understand the ins-and-outs and best practices of creating ADUs, we jumped at the chance.”

Cort is Policy Director for the Coalition for Smarter Growth, and has been deeply involved in the efforts to make ADUs legal in the nation’s capital, as well as in neighboring counties of Maryland and Virginia; she is also the lead author of the DC ADU Homeowner’s Manual.  She had developed an individual presentation that Kang, working with Tyler Hagen, DCAR’s Government Affairs Associate, expanded into a more extensive program with a full panel of professionals, including Cort, as the policy expert; an architect with extensive experience designing and writing about ADUs; a general contractor whose firm constructs ADUs in the District of Columbia; the chair of DCAR’s Regulatory Affairs Subcommittee, whose own firm specializes in DC’s permitting processes; and a representative from the city’s Department of Buildings.

The mid-day lunch workshop was held at the DCAR office, attracting about thirty members, as well as invited government officials.  The program was structured to allow time for questions following each topic segment, in addition to a general Q&A session at the end of the presentations, where multiple experts could address various aspects of a single situation.

The event was a great success.  As Hagen reports, “As someone new to the world of real estate, I found this program very informative. It showed the progress that can be made when industry experts and government leaders genuinely seek to collaborate and understand the challenges we face in the District.”  It was clear that those who attended were hungry for information and insights, says Kang, noting that the speakers stayed on for an hour after the program ended, answering further questions.  This led directly to the creation of an innovative benefit for DCAR members with an interest in developing ADUs: a quarterly virtual check-in with the Department of Buildings to keep the information flowing.

Says Kang, “Whether for housing supply or for supplemental income, we want to help homeowners benefit from the ability to increase the number of units on their property.  We appreciate that the REALTOR® Party is there for us, supporting our efforts.”

To learn more about the effort to help homeowners and increase available housing in the nation’s capital, contact the DC Association of REALTORS at contact@dcrealtors.org.

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