Lawmakers consider changes to make DC building laws more flexible

Lawmakers in Washington, DC, are considering loosening the restrictions on the height of the city's buildings, according to US News and World Report. The debate about the implications of the weakened laws is currently active. Many proponents feel changes to the regulation could be good for those who own real estate in Washington, DC, as they could encourage job growth and increase property values.

"Relaxing or eliminating the Heights of Buildings Act could eventually have a positive effect and could be especially important for the city's continued growth," Natwar Gandhi, Chief Financial Officer for the city, told members of the House subcommittee, the news source reports. "It could be an important step towards maintaining the city's long-term ability to keeping property and jobs."

The history
The Heights of Buildings Act was passed in 1910 and aimed at limiting the maximum height of buildings in the District to 90 feet for residential areas and 130 feet for commercial regions, according to the Washington Times. This restriction has lead to a city that has many unobstructed views of monuments and a less-dense feeling. However, critics argue that it has also limited the amount of jobs the city can offer and raised property prices - both commercially and residentially.

Through the roof
Although relaxing the law is primarily aimed at maximizing space and creating more properties, there is also a movement to alter the law's stance toward rooftop development. Under the 1910 law, rooftop structures are forbidden except in the case of "mechanical structures" such as elevator overrides and building machinery, according to the DCist.

Many people believe that allowing residents and businesses to utilize rooftops for extra living space or other non-mechanical purposes could improve property values and convenience for those who purchase one of the homes for sale in Washington, DC.

"Restricting the use of roof structures to purely mechanical purposes forbids peoples' enjoyment of some of the city's greatest spaces and most striking views," DC Director of Planning Harriet Tregoning said, according to the news source.

As local government officials debate the benefits of loosening the century-old bill, DC residents could be the beneficiaries of improved living conditions and increased property values.