United Planning Organization Announces Launch of ADU DC, an Accessory Dwelling Unit Initiative in Washington, DC

Initiative will catalyze affordable rental housing and increase financial stability for lower-income homeowners in Washington, DC

WASHINGTON, DC: Today, the United Planning Organization announced the launch of ADU DC, a pilot initiative to make accessory dwelling units (ADUs) more accessible to lower-income homeowners in Washington, DC. The initiative is presented by United Planning Organization in collaboration with Coalition for Smarter Growth and founding corporate supporter Citi Community Development.

An ADU is a secondary dwelling unit on a single family home lot, such as a basement or garage apartment or a free-standing structure. A 2016 change to DC’s zoning regulations allows for ADUs to be built as a matter of right in certain low-density residential neighborhoods. ADUs benefit homeowners by creating an income stream, while adding lower cost and affordable housing in existing neighborhoods.

ADU DC aims to help qualified homeowners build ADUs on their properties; give greater access to affordable and lower-priced housing in the District; and add housing stock by educating homeowners about ADU development, zoning, permitting, design, and financing.


“ADU DC has the potential to empower residents to create affordable housing in their own communities,” said Dana Jones, President and CEO, United Planning Organization. “Through this innovative approach, homeowners will be able to increase property values, age in place, build intergenerational wealth and grow new skill sets in development and property management.”


“In Washington, DC, approximately one in three Black residents is a homeowner. Yet, research shows that on average, Black households have lower home values and lower incomes than their White counterparts. As a result, Black households in DC have a net worth 81 times lesser than White households,” said Robert Burns, Senior Vice President, Citi Community Development. “Accessory dwelling units present a unique opportunity for homeowners to increase their incomes and begin to close the wealth gap. By supporting ADU DC we aim to help enable more homeowners to boost their financial resilience, while adding much-needed affordable housing for renters in the region.”


“In 2016, DC reformed its restrictions on accessory apartments, now we must ensure that homeowners, especially moderate and low income homeowners, can take full advantage of this new opportunity,” said Cheryl Cort, Coalition for Smarter Growth.


As part of the initiative, the Coalition for Smarter growth and UPO will produce “how to” guides, a report of barriers, a Homeowner’s ADU manual, a policy brief on financing for lower-income homeowners, and procedural recommendations for government.

ADU DC was announced at a multisector launch event featuring a panel of experts that highlighted current regulatory barriers, financing, and case studies from ADU initiatives nationwide.


“Mayor Bowser has set an ambitious goal for DC to create 36,000 more homes, 12,000 of which must be affordable,” said Polly Donaldson, Director, DC Department of Housing and Community Development. “In order to achieve this goal we must think differently, be bolder, and create new affordable housing tools; ADUs fit that bill and this initiative brings us one step closer to our goal.”


DC’s rapidly rising housing prices pose dire challenges to low income families. In the last decade, the city has lost half of its low-priced and affordable housing. DC’s lower-income households increasingly pay more than half of their incomes for housing, or are pushed out of the District’s housing market altogether. For older homeowners, rising values have been both a threat and an opportunity. Rising property taxes that follow increased values can be a threat to long-time homeowners on low and fixed incomes. But higher property values also mean greater wealth that can be used for retirement and shared with the next generation. This opportunity is especially important for African American homeowners who experience wide gaps in wealth with their White counterparts.


About United Planning Organization
United Planning Organization is a human and community development organization. As the Community Action Agency for Washington DC, UPO’s federally-mandated purpose is to help people lift themselves out of poverty. UPO surveys DC residents to learn the gaps in community needs and invents ways to bridge those gaps by uniting people with opportunities. A staff of 400 helps over 50,000 DC residents each year, with impacts in education, employment, health, housing counseling, and in strengthening families and communities.

About Citi
Citi, the leading global bank, has approximately 200 million customer accounts and does business in more than 160 countries and jurisdictions. Citi provides consumers, corporations, governments and institutions with a broad range of financial products and services, including consumer banking and credit, corporate and investment banking, securities brokerage, transaction services, and wealth management.

About Coalition for Smarter Growth
The Coalition for Smarter Growth promotes walkable, inclusive, and transit-oriented communities in the Washington DC region, and the land use and transportation policies and investments needed to make those communities flourish. CSG combines grassroots advocacy with policy expertise, media communications, and relationships with elected officials to advance smart growth. After many years of effort, CSG helped reform ADU zoning restrictions for DC in 2016, and since then has worked to bring down the barriers to building ADUs.

Lauren Kannry


ADU DC Initiative Presentations:


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By |2019-08-08T13:36:20-04:00August 6, 2019|
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