duplex changes

The City of Orlando is interested in implementing new rules for the way duplexes are being built in downtown’s neighborhoods.

The area affected by these proposed rules is called the “Traditional City”. A majority of Traditional City homes are single-family, however, duplexes have long been a part of the mix of housing options downtown.

For a number of reasons, including the rise of homeownership, duplexes originally intended for renters grew in size to meet the market demand. Residents of surrounding properties have expressed concern about the way these newer structures are shaping the character of their neighborhoods.

Currently, duplexes are only allowed in two types of districts with allow muli-family units:

  • One to Two Family Districts (R­2A)
  • One to Five Family Districts (R­2B).

The City’s proposed regulations affecting duplexes are written to make them more compatible with the surrounding single-family units.

Here is a summary of those changes:

  1. Reduce the maximum allowed bulk and height of duplexes in the Traditional City: To achieve this, the ratio dictating the maximum livable area of each duplex, based on the size of the lot, has been decreased in One toTwo Family Districts (R2A) from a Floor Area Ratio (FAR) of 0.50 to 0.45.  Additionally, duplexes are restricted to two stories in One toTwo Family Districts (R2A). In both One to Two Family Districts (R­2A) and One to Five Family Districts (R­2B) the maximum combined sqft for a duplex is 4,000 sqft.
  2. Promote single family character: Tandem units will now be allowed in interior lots. Tandems are being promoted for their single-family character from the street. These units can be considered front-­to-­back duplexes that do not share a common wall, similar to a single-family home with a mother-in-law suite in the back. Lots can also be split, so that each duplex unit can sit on its own lot. These fee-simple lots are intended to make homeownership of these duplex units less complicated. Finally, side-by-side duplexes will not be allowed in One toTwo Family Districts (R2A).
  3. Reduce the negative impacts of garages and parked cars: The City plans to more strictly enforce the existing curb­cut code for single lots. This is a two-car wide driveway from the street  that can then be split to provide access to both duplex units. Also, only allowing  front-­to-­back duplexes and tandem dwellings in One to Two Family Districts (R­2A) takes one garage away from the front of the lot.
  4. Improve the appearance of duplexes and tandems: Because tandems were previously only allowed on corner units, they were under greater appearance review standards than duplexes. Based on the state of many new duplexes, the City feels that greater appearance standards should be applied to all types duplexes.
  5. Reduce mass even further for Colonialtown North: Colonialtown North Neighborhood staff have recommended  that duplexes in this neighborhood be even smaller than their counterparts to the south.  Here the recommended FAR reduction is from 0.50 to 0.35 FAR.

There will be a public workshop as the second part of the Municipal Planning Board’s regular meeting on Tuesday, April 21, 2015 at 8:30 am in City Council Chambers, 2nd floor of City Hall at 400 S. Orange Ave [Gmap].

interior lot tandem
Example of an interior lot tandem
Three (3) story duplex
Example of a tandem unit that is taller than two stories.



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  1. The Duplex home is profound and important transitional building type found throughout our American urban neighborhoods.  The type provides an important transition between single family and more dense multifamily and mixed use building types. Perfect for young families and elderly couples on fixed incomes, duplexes bridge economic social norms adding social and economic diversity to traditional neighborhoods. The problem that needs fixing has been in the more recent (last 20 years) design solutions.  There are several configuration options

    typically do not need garages.  If you remove the garage and driveway curb cut
    you add two parking spaces in the street and more usable ground floor
    area with added light into the home.  You also get full facade that
    appears inhabitable by humans rather giving more than half of the facade
    width to the garage doors.  There is nothing more dignified along a street than well composed facades with windows looking into living space.

    If you can get the garage
    way from the front of the house i.e. see examples in Oakland Park, and
    in  Celebration with the single detached garage
    located in the rear along the alleyway and other cases with a 10 foot
    driveway along the side leading to a rear garage the street scape in preserved for pedestrians and well composed facades. 
    need to have a protected front doorway with a well scaled stoop or
    porch.  Remember the duplex house is not a rural building type so the front porch it should have vertical proportions
    regardless of the style.

  2. I like the provision to divide the lot. It makes things more affordable and avoids a lot of hassle and headache and needless lawyer fees to be required to do a condo… Reducing the FAR should be done on the single famiy houses. Some of them going up look like multi-family or small hotels because they strive to fill up ever square inch of available lot up to the setback with two stories of massiveness… Which, is itself a product of the piss poor bubble economic policies of Washington where the rich sell high and buy low… almost every home above $500K is or has been for sale in the last 18 months in my neighborhood, because at least a portion of the upper middle class learned their lesson with the last bubble… and now, the developers are paying so much to tear down the prior use that they have to maximize the square foot to hope for any profit… Real estate prices vary inversely with interest rates, which are at all time lows with no room for growth, and directly with (disposable) income, which has gone down with downsizing and with gas prices and the prices of good and services having gone up, even though the Bureau of Labor Statistics methodically under-reports these to keep the reported inflation rates low because so much of government contracting is tied to this artificially deflated number…. bubble economics, brought to you by your non-representatives in Washington…

  3. The density isn’t the problem but some of the duplexes going are terribly ugly and all garage, “Snout houses”. That’s what needs to get fixed. Like someone says it’s just as bad if it’s a single family house.

  4. I’m all for it. If homeowners want density, they can buy a condo in a high rise. Last time I checked, we have plenty of those downtown. Orlando’s streetscapes should be preserved in traditional city neighborhoods.

  5. Orlando should encourage diverse housing options. These changes move the city further from this. I would suggest permitting more housing types and focus on design. FAR has never inspired great design or created great communities.

  6. Living in Thornton amongst bungalows and craftsman like the idea of duplexes in the area provided they maintain the character of the neighborhood. No front garages and keep the curb cuts to 1 single car per lot. Most homes around me already have a leased apartment along with the home which is great but they also have the character of the neighborhood. I’m completely for housing for a large variety of residents. The. Most of the Traditional City neighborhoods aren’t prime locations for highly dense development yet but allowing options for more density is probably the right move.

  7. I don’t mind that a building is a duplex but I don’t like when they are built to look like cheesy apartments. However, for that matter, there are a lot of single family homes now being built in this area that look like tract houses from the suburbs, and that take up virtually the entire lot, so not sure what difference it makes if its a multi or single family unit because the final result looks pretty much the same.

  8. I would encourage anyone living in the bungalow neighborhoods with an opinion on the new standards to attend the Municipal Planning Board’s meeting on Tuesday, April 21st 8:30am at City Hall Council Chambers. They are hosting a 90 minute workshop on this issue.

  9. It’s a start, but doesn’t go far enough… many people buy homes in those areas because they are “one house to a lot” type neighborhoods and property values that go along with the lower density of that type of neighborhood… there’s far too many, too large and too crammed in duplexes in the Bungalow neighborhoods now… they should stop permitting for back/front or side by side…

  10. Seems like a commonsense approach to allowing increased density while respecting the neighborhood context. I drove through historic Sanford yesterday and there was a 4-plex, warehouse, church and single family residential all on the same block. They worked visually because of scale and conscientious design.

  11. This is a step backwards. If we want to grow as a city we need a more dense population. We don’t need to appear like a suburb.