Senior Living Zoning
What Is Senior Living Zoning?
Senior living zoning can include defined uses or districts and are created for the direct purpose of encouraging and allowing senior living housing arrangements for seniors. Due to the specificity of senior living zoning, zoned areas are usually small and work to encourage individual project(s) in the zone. Senior living zoning encourages development of senior housing in appropriate locations, with proximity to amenities such as medical, retail, open space, and multimodal transportation options. Senior living zoning can include additional non-residential or residential uses.
Senior living zoning uses define senior living housing (such as nursing homes, independent living facilities, and continuing care) as unique uses, which can be permitted in existing residential zones. All senior living housing styles can be included as one use, or each type of senior living housing can be a unique use.
Develop housing options for seniors to age-in-community
Senior living zoning permits the development of diverse housing types within the community that meet seniors' needs.
Keep seniors physically and socially connected
Senior living zoning can allow for senior housing to develop in areas with access to amenities.
Create a range of price options for housing
Senior living zoning can encourage the development of multifamily smaller units, which are often less expensive than larger single-family homes.
Make it Happen
- While senior living zoning may not impact school aged children, residents usually require higher levels of emergency services than traditional housing types. Municipalities should investigate the level of appropriate senior living zoning for their community, taking into consideration the need to allow for a diversity of residential opportunities and a balanced mix of uses, including commercial and industrial.
- Uses allowed in age restricted zoning districts typically include single-family and/or multifamily senior living housing. Municipalities can further encourage connectivity between senior housing and amenities by including public amenities such as medical, museums, community centers, transportation, conservation areas, religious centers, and non-profits in senior living zoning districts.
- As senior living housing is often developed at a different scale than that of medium to low-density single-family housing developments targeted at families, opponents to its construction may cite it as being out of character with the surrounding communities. Including provisions within senior living zoning districts for appropriate lot sizes, setbacks, garage placement, landscaping/buffering standards, pedestrian amenities, and functional open space can create a balanced community. Within the variety of senior living housing that is developed (from single-family lots to full-time care in a nursing home), appropriate density will also vary. Continuing care communities are most appropriate in growth areas for reasons of density and proximity to supportive services.
- Senior living zoning districts should require sidewalk connections to ensure connectivity for seniors.
- Municipalities can include restrictions banning the conversion of units to non- senior living units.
- Municipalities should balance senior living zoning with flexible zoning to promote a diversity of housing options for seniors.
- Senior living zoning can be created in reaction to a proposed project, but is best used to proactively define areas near to amenities appropriate for senior housing.
- When creating definitions municipalities should consider that senior living housing is legally permitted under federal Fair Housing laws if all residents are 62 years of age or older, or at least 80 percent of total units are occupied by a minimum of one person age 55 or older (HUD's Housing for Older Persons Act).
Age Restricted Zoning in Practice
East Brandywine Township, PA — Age-qualified residential community
Section 399-102.6 of the East Brandywine Township Zoning Ordinance provides standards for the development and construction of age-qualified residential communities that are permitted by special exception in some residential districts.
East Pikeland Township, PA — Continuing Care Retirement Communities
Section 603-2 of the East Pikeland Township Zoning Ordinance provides standards for the development of continuing care communities, which are permitted as conditional uses in some residential districts.
Howard County, MD — Residential: Senior-Institutional District
Senior living zoning focusing on senior housing in conjunction with institutional community uses
Calvert County, MD — Age-Restricted Housing Communities
Senior living zoning focusing on lower to high density senior living housing. Contains a minimum of 20 units.
Township of Florence, NJ High-Density Residential — Age-Restricted Affordable Housing
Senior living zoning focusing on high-density affordable senior housing. Permitted uses include multifamily senior living affordable housing units, senior community centers, management offices, and township administration offices.
Find Out More
- Modern Family: Zoning and the Non-Nuclear Living Arrangement, American Planning Association Zoning recommendations to accommodate changing demographic needs.
- Age-restricted Housing eTool, Chester County Planning Commission Information on senior living housing.