- Report Published -
|Uniform Statewide Building Code Requirements and Affordable Assisted Living Facilities|
|Department of Housing and Community Development|
|HJR 750 (Regular Session, 1999)|
|Assisted living has emerged as one response to the growing demand for facilities that combine housing and necessary supportive services while promoting the maximum independence possible for elderly and other residents. The cost of residency in these facilities may exceed the resources of older citizens creating considerable interest in finding ways to make them more affordable. Regulatory provisions, including those of building codes and standards, are among the factors influencing the affordability of existing and future facilities.|
House Joint Resolution 750 requested that the Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) review national model building and safety codes, identifying any alternatives to the institutional use categories currently used to classify the health and safety features applicable to assisted living facilities. The resolution further requested that DHCD inform the Board of Housing and Community Development of any alternatives that it might consider incorporating during the ongoing revision of the current edition of the Uniform Statewide Building Code (USBC).
The USBC imposes a variety of requirements on assisted living facilities, classifying them as "institutional" uses that they must meet rigorous standards intended to assure the health and safety of residents in case of fire or other emergencies.
The Virginia Housing Study Commission (VHSC), which recently completed a two-year study of assisted living issues, noted that modem facilities did not fit easily within the current use classifications of the USBC. Institutional classifications, and particularly the I-2 classification, may exceed what is needed to provide a healthy and safe living environment. On the other hand, the current residential classifications may not provide sufficient protection for the population of these facilities.
Both the Building Officials and Code Administrators International (BOCA) organization and the model code organizations working to develop the proposed International Building Code (IBC) have recognized the need to find more appropriate regulatory provisions for assisted living facilities. Thus, the 1999 BOCA and the proposed 2000 IBC codes propose related but distinct methods for responding to the issue.
By classifying medium-sized (serving 16 or fewer residents) assisted living facilities as residential uses, the provisions of these model codes could reduce some of the costs associated with institutional use classifications. At the same time, however, it should be noted that in both model codes facilities serving individuals not capable of responding unaided to an emergency would continue to require a higher level of building safety systems.
The assisted living provisions of the 1999 BOCA and IBC model codes do not fall precisely between those of the current I-1 and I-2 use categories. Nonetheless, they could permit the construction and operation of more medium-sized facilities at a lower cost than under the existing rules, increasing their affordability to future residents without compromising essential health, safety, and accessibility features.
The process for revising the Uniform Statewide Building Code was already underway at the time that the General Assembly approved HJR 750. However, the Board of Housing and Community Development will be considering the adoption of portions of the 1999 BOCA or other model codes in the future. The information included in this document and supporting materials will be directly relevant to that process and will be reported to the Board for its consideration during that process.