What is Flexible Zoning?
Zoning that does not include levels of flexibility can unintentionally hinder the ability for seniors to age in community by driving up housing costs or limiting the construction of low-maintenance smaller homes and apartments. Restrictions on unrelated persons cohabitating can limit the ability of seniors to co-live. Building senior living arrangements close to medical, recreational, and retail amenities will help keep seniors connected and decrease costs related to medical transport. Senior living arrangements may require mixed-use zoning to accommodate non-residential uses such as medical and dining facilities. Allowing for a diversity of housing types, limiting unrelated person restrictions, and allowing for mixed-use zoning will ensure seniors have housing choices to remain in their homes or communities.
Help seniors age-in-place
Zoning can permit uses such as ADUs and allow for retail and medical amenities to be built near residential uses, both of which can assist seniors to age in place.
Develop housing options for seniors to age-in-community
Zoning can allow diverse housing types that can meet seniors' changing needs.
Facilitate multigenerational and shared housing
Zoning changes can permit these types of housing arrangements.
Create a range of price options for housing
Allowing diverse housing types, especially smaller and shared units, can add affordably-priced housing options.
Make it Happen
- Ensure that zoning definitions and provisions limiting the total number of unrelated persons living together do not preclude opportunities for senior co-living. Active seniors may choose to cohabitate with roommates; either other seniors, care-givers, or renters. Permitting unrelated persons to cohabitate can provide opportunities to reduce housing costs by splitting costs or increasing rental income, as well as help seniors to remain socially connected by providing live-in communities. Limiting unrelated person ordinances can help to facilitate Naturally Occurring Retirement Communities (NORCs), and reuse existing housing stock without changing the fabric of existing communities.
- Allow for additional residential forms in current single-family zoned districts to allow seniors to find housing that meets their evolving needs within their neighborhood. These forms can include many of the missing middle typologies, multifamily, and accessory dwelling units (ADUs) in residential zones.
- Implement form-based zoning codes. Form based zoning regulates the design of buildings instead of uses. This approach allows communities to ensure new development is contextual to the existing community, while still providing flexibility. This approach can be especially beneficial to enabling multi-generational, co-living, and missing middle typologies.
- Consider reducing parking minimums and implementing parking maximums in transit opportunity rich areas to decrease housing costs for seniors who are less likely to drive. Parking construction costs can increase the overall cost of development, raising the costs developers need to charge to recoup expenses. Parking spaces in urban environments can require as much as half of the space as an apartment would. Decreasing parking minimums can reduce construction costs and provide additional units on the same footprint. Reducing parking can create more pedestrian friendly spaces for seniors, helping them to remain physically active and connected.
- Allow for mixed-use zoning for higher density senior living arrangements near existing medical, transportation, and retail amenities. Senior living arrangements are often not permitted in residential districts due to their dining and healthcare components. Communities can create new zones, modify existing zoning, or create overlay districts to allow for mixed-use senior living arrangements. Mixed-use centers can also be beneficial to seniors living private and active living arrangements. Allowing for mixed-use communities can enable seniors to live near to amenities and social opportunities.
Flexible Zoning in Practice
Phoenixville has adopted a form-based zoning code that allows for flexibility in the housing types allowed in their various districts. Specifically the ordinance mandates existing development patterns and densities shall be used to guide/regulate new development. This allows for expansion and development of many missing-middle typologies throughout the Borough.
Due to increasing housing prices and with the specific goal of allowing seniors to age in place, in 2018 the city formed an advisory group to evaluate the Denver Zoning Code's rules for household and co-living. The limit on the number of unrelated people who could cohabitate was identified as a key barrier to meeting the changing demographic needs of residents. The committee has since provided ordinance updates including consolidating all uses where care is provided into a single use type (Residential Care) and regulating by size, increasing the number of allowed unrelated people with rent-by-the-room uses permitted only in specific districts, and allowing a new Congregate Living use to allow for larger co-living housing types.
Buffalo, New York
The City of Buffalo removed parking minimums from their zoning in 2017. The change enabled new adaptive reuse and transit-oriented developments, these projects often shared parking and utilized public transportation options. Single-family homes continued to offer parking.
Find Out More
- Zoning to Expand Affordable Housing, American Planning Association Zoning recommendations to expand affordable housing.
- Zoning to Promote Garage Apartments, American Planning Association Zoning recommendations to support garage apartment style ADUs.
- Modern Family: Zoning and the Non-Nuclear Living Arrangement, American Planning Association Zoning recommendations to accommodate changing demographic needs.
- Zoning Practice: Form-Based Zoning, American Planning Association Guide to form-based zoning.
- People Over Parking, American Planning Association Article and information on reducing parking minimums.
- Rethinking Off-Street Parking Requirements, American Planning Association Guide on considerations for reducing parking minimums.