Common Zoning Issues

Zoning is at the foundation of many issues that come before WICA. Zoning has a direct impact on our population density and, by extension, pressures on street parking, traffic, and noise. As a community that is zoned primarily for single family homes, when zoning is changed or variances are granted that increase density, we can all be affected.Thoughtfully addressing developments that propose increased density by incorporating community input leads to the best solutions for all stakeholders.

Single Family to Multi-family Homes

One of the most common requests that we see are for variances to change single family properties to multi-family. This is a common practice among investors who wish to maximize the number of dwelling units on a property. A home zoned for single family use limits the number of legal occupants to no more than three unrelated adults. A home zoned for multi-family use can have no more than three unrelated adult occupants per unit.

WICA encourages community input and involvement. The variance process works best for all parties when developers work with the neighborhood to mitigate issues or concerns caused by zoning proposals seeking increased residential density.

Illegal Rentals

An owner must obtain a rental license from the city in order to rent a property. The way a property is rented will be regulated by the rental license issued.

Philadelphia limits the number of unrelated adults in a rental unit to three. This means that a single-family home cannot be rented out to four or more adults unless they are familialy related to one another. This regulation attempts to curb college rentals and frat-house-style living situations in neighborhoods far from college campuses. A violation of this law also results in increased parking demand on our neighborhood’s streets.

Another common issue is a property being rented without a rental license at all.

Additionally, some developers will convert a single family home into a rental by renovating the structure without proper permits. 

If you believe any of these issues are taking place in a property, you can report it to the city by calling 311 or by using their online portal:

Rooming Houses

A rooming house is a building that rents bedrooms individually. It will often have other shared amenities such as bathrooms or kitchens. The most common example of this type of rental is a dormitory, fraternity or sorority house. There are no properties zoned for this use within WICA’s boundaries and we are unaware of any property that currently has a rental license for this use.

New Construction

In many cases, new construction projects will be brought to WICA. This happens most often in cases where the developer needs a variance to add more homes than the zoning code allows.


If a property owner intends to add parking, they will need a zoning permit, which may require a variance. In seeking the variance, the ZBA will require that the property owner meet with WICA to present their plans prior to their hearing at the ZBA. Sometimes a property owner will pour an illegal parking pad and curb cut without the proper zoning/use permit. If you believe a property has an illegal off-street parking spot, contact WICA and report the property to 311. We can help you determine if the owner obtained the proper permits or not.

Dimensional Variances

Various zoning proposals may be sought by property owners. A zoning refusal is given when a proposal does not meet certain dimensional requirements of the zoning code. These variances may be sought for not meeting the minimum lot width or minimum lot area, exceeding the maximum building height, not meeting the minimum side or rear yard requirements, or exceeding the maximum lot coverage of their property.