Affordable Housing

Housing that a household can afford without paying more than 30 percent of income for rent or 35 percent of income for mortgage payments.


Public way affording or intended to afford secondary means of vehicular access to abutting properties.

Area median income

The mid-point income level in a given geographic area, where half of all wage-earners earn greater than this level, while the other half earn less than this level; for Richmond, the Area median income refers to the Richmond-Petersburg Metropolitan Statistical Area, and is determined by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development.


Block, entire 

All of the property lying within an area bounded entirely by streets or by any combination of streets, railroad rights-of-way, watercourses or other features or natural barriers which permanently interrupt the continuity of development.


The property on one side of a street that is located between two intersecting streets, or between a combination of streets, railroad tracks, or any other barrier that interrupts and stops further development.


Competitive negotiation 

A method of source selection to complete municipal work that involves individual discussions between the city and a potential contractor on the basis of responses to the city’s request for proposals.

Competitive Sealed Bidding

A form of contractor selection where two or more contracts are proposed for some kind of municipal work; each contractor does not know the contract of a competitor; the party making the selection, in this case the City of Richmond, would be the party needing the work done.

Construction management contract 

A contract in which a party is retained by the city to coordinate and administer contracts for construction projects for the benefit of the city, and may also include, if provided in the contract, the furnishing of construction services to the city.


All types of city agreements, regardless of what they may be called, for the procurement of goods, services, insurance or construction.

Council District Funds 

A pool of money in the General Fund Budget which supports individual district operations for each Council Member. The district amount is established by Council annually, and funds unspent at the end of each fiscal year lapse.


Dwelling unit 

Space within a building specifically for living purposes for an individual or individuals; contains a kitchen, and space for living, sleeping, sanitation, all accessible to the occupants, and is not available for occupancy for less than one month.

Dwelling use

Any of the following principal uses: single-family detached dwelling, single-family attached dwelling, two-family dwelling, multifamily dwelling, nursing home, adult care residence, group home, lodginghouse, fraternity or sorority house; and includes any dwelling unit contained within the same building as other permitted principal uses.

Dwelling, multifamily

A building containing three or more dwelling units.

Dwelling, single family attached

A building which contains only one dwelling unit and which is attached by means of party walls to another main building, each of which is located on an individual lot of record.

Dwelling, single family detached

A building completely separated from any other main building and containing only one dwelling unit.

Dwelling, two family

Means a building containing two dwelling units, and consisting of either of the following:

  • Dwelling, two-family attached, means a two-family dwelling which is attached by means of a party wall to another main building, each of which is located on an individual lot of record.
  • Dwelling, two-family detached, means a two-family dwelling which is completely separated from any other main building.



The right or privilege over a certain parcel of land for a project, such as a road, utility cables, or other matters of public interest, that is granted to another party that does not own it. For instance, the City Government may acquire an easement over a portion of someone’s property and thus have the right to install utility cables, even though the city does not own the land.


The unauthorized infringement upon another party’s property rights through an alteration to a piece of a property; in the context of the city government, certain encroachments are authorized on public land, such as an awning over a sidewalk.


Fee simple interest 

A parcel of land that a specific party owns with absolute and unrestricted access; quite often, the city government acquires certain fee simple interests (properties) through declaring a public necessity, in order to execute a certain project. For example, if an individual owned a street block and the city declared a public necessity to build an alleyway on the property, the city would have to acquire the fee simple interest from the owner through purchase, a gift, or through eminent domain, so that it could have outright ownership over the land and thus the legal right for the project.

Flood Fringe District

Any normally dry land area susceptible to partial or complete inundation during the 100-year flood and lying outside of the floodway district. The outermost boundary of the flood fringe district shall be the elevation of the 100-year flood contained in the flood profiles of the flood insurance study and shown on the flood boundary and floodway map.

Floodplain districts 

Those areas subject to partial or complete inundation by waters of the 100-year flood, including floodway districts, flood fringe districts and approximate floodplain districts.


The area, including watercourse, susceptible to partial or complete inundation during the 100-year flood.

Floodway district

The channel of the river, creek or other watercourse and the adjacent land areas that must be reserved in order to discharge the 100-year flood without cumulatively increasing the water surface elevation more than one foot. Areas included in this district are defined in table 2 of the flood insurance study prepared by FEMA dated December 15, 1978, and as revised, effective July 20, 1998 and April 2, 2009.


General Obligation Bond 

A type of municipal bond used to raise money by a locality and backed by the taxing power of the municipality issuing said bond; paid back through the general revenue of a city’s budget generated through taxes.

In Richmond, ordinances commonly refer to this type of bond as a General Obligation Public Improvement Bond, and use the funds they raise on Capital Improvement Projects, such as school repairs.

Group Home 

A building or portion thereof intended for residential occupancy for periods of not less than one week and where the total occupancy of such facility does not constitute a family.


Industrialized building 

A combination of one or more sections or modules, subject to state regulations and including the necessary electrical, plumbing, heating, ventilating and other service systems, manufactured off-site and transported to the point of use for installation or erection, with or without other specified components, to comprise a finished building. Manufactured homes defined in Code of Virginia, § 36-85.3 and certified under the provisions of the National Manufactured Housing Construction and Safety Standards Act shall not be considered industrialized buildings for the purpose of this definition.


Joint authority

Words purporting to give authority to a collective body comprised of three or more officers or other persons shall be construed as giving such authority to a majority of such officers or other persons.


Land disturbing activity 

Any land change, including but not limited to clearing, grading, excavating, transporting and filling of land, or other construction activities which would disturb the natural vegetation or the existing contours of the land, which may result in soil erosion from water or wind and the movement of sediments into public or private storm drainage facilities.

Light Industrial District.

Lot coverage 

That portion of a lot occupied at ground level or above by enclosed space within main buildings and accessory buildings.

Lot, corner 

A lot located at the intersection of two or more streets or a lot bounded entirely by streets. A lot abutting on a curved street shall be considered a corner lot if straight lines drawn from the intersections of the side lot lines with the street line to the midpoint of the street frontage meet at an interior angle of 135 degrees or less.


A parcel of land occupied or intended for occupancy by buildings or uses permitted by this chapter and including such area, yards and other open spaces as are required in this chapter. A lot may consist of a single lot of record or a combination of contiguous lots of record.

Low income 

Gross household income adjusted for family size that is at or below 80 percent of area median income.


Major street 

A public way affording direct access to and from abutting property, designed for vehicular travel through, around and between urban areas in a right-of-way of sufficient width to provide six traffic lanes.

Minor street 

A public way affording access to and from abutting property, designed primarily for that purpose.

Municipal Corporation 

A city, town, or other local political entity formed by charter from the state and having the autonomous authority to administer the state’s local affairs.


New construction

Any construction within an old and historic district either independent of any existing structures, or an expansion upon pre-existing structures.


Public contract 

An agreement between a public body and a nongovernmental source that is enforceable in a court of law.

Public necessity 

A matter of public interest that overrides the interest of a private party.

Public Right-of-Way 

The area across, along, beneath, in, on, over, under, upon, and within any street or other public way within the city.

Public Way

Any public street or other public right-of-way of whatever nature in the city, whether or not actually or physically open to public use and travel.


Residential Zone 

Any location within any area zoned residential or residential-office pursuant to the City’s zoning ordinance, and designated as such by the R- or RO- prefix in Chapter 114 of this Code.


To change the zoning boundaries or restrictions of an area.


1. A person’s legal right, established by usage or by contract, to pass through grounds or property owned by another

2. The right to build and operate a railway line or a highway on land belonging to another party, or the land so used



Any parcel of unimproved property, park, or parking lot within an old and historic district.

Site improvement 

Structural changes to the grounds of a property, including the installation or alteration of walls, fences, or other structures, or paving, planting, or even regrading.

Special use

When a citizen is authorized to use property for a purpose that would otherwise be prohibited by land use regulations, including zoning code; special uses of properties are authorized when a particular request is considered essential and not entirely incompatible with the original zoning regulations.


The process of dealing with land so as to establish a subdivision.


A division, subdivision or re-subdivision of a lot, tract or parcel of land situated wholly or partly within the corporate city limits into three or more lots, tracts or parcels of land for the purpose, whether immediate or in the future, of transferring ownership of any one or more of such lots, tracts or parcels of land or for the purpose of the erection of buildings or other structures on any one or more of such lots, tracts or parcels of land. The term “subdivision” does not include a division of land for agricultural purposes in parcels of one acre or more, the average width of which is not less than 150 feet, when such division does not:

  • (1) Require the opening of any new street or the use of any new public easement of access;
  • (2) Obstruct or is not likely to obstruct natural drainage;
  • (3) Adversely affect or is not likely to adversely affect the establishment of any expressway, major street, primary highway or toll road; or
  • (4) Adversely affect the execution or development of any plat or subdivision approved by the commission or otherwise adversely affect the orderly subdivision of contiguous property.

The term “group home” shall not be construed to include a “shelter” as defined in this section.

Substantial impact

Changes involving partial or total demolition, new construction, expanding an existing building or structure, or making modifications to any public building or public right-of-way.


Zoning Ordinance 

A city ordinance that regulates the use to which land within various parts of the city may be put; it allocates uses to the various districts of a municipality, as by allocating residences to certain parts and businesses to other parts; a comprehensive zoning ordinance usually regulates the height of buildings and the proportion of the lot area that must be kept free from buildings.


The legislative division of a region, especially a municipality, into separate districts with different regulations within the districts for land use, building size, and the like.

To view the Zoning Districts in the City of Richmond, see Chapter 114 Article 4 of the Richmond City Code.