Adaptable Housing

Adaptable Housing – Requirements and Design Guidelines

Adaptable Housing requirements are modest improvements to accessibility and adaptability in residential buildings that make it easier for people to "remain in place" as they age, and experience illness or injury.

Saanich's Adaptable Housing is based on the principle of "visitability".  This means that people's homes should be accessible to everyone, not just able-bodied people.  It eases problems associated with isolation, and allows people with physical limitations to visit friends and neighbours, and stay in communities where they have developed social ties.

Forecasts in demographics predict that Saanich's population is aging.  In 30 years, the proportion of seniors over the age of 65 will double and make up almost one-third of the population.  Increasing the stock of seniors-friendly housing is important for the social well-being of the community and the quality of life for Saanich's residents.

Adaptable Housing features follow "universal design" principles, meaning that the housing can appeal to everyone.  Adaptable Housing features are visually unnoticeable, and allow increased flexibility in selling or renting homes.  Including these features at the design stage is inexpensive and greatly reduces the cost of renovation in the future.

Adaptable Housing - Mandatory and Voluntary

In November 2003, Saanich Council passed an amendment to the Zoning Bylaw that requires most newly-constructed apartment buildings and seniors' congregate care facilities be built to include Basic Adaptable Housing standards. Building permits issued for apartment buildings with an elevator and common corridor must comply with the new regulations.

Those applying for rezoning, subdivision and development permit applications are also encouraged to incorporate features from the voluntary design guidelines for apartment buildings, townhouses, and single-family homes.

Basic Adaptable Housing

The mandatory Basic Adaptable Housing features include barrier-free access to all suites and amenity areas, wider doorways, maneuvering room at suite entries and corridors, access to a main-floor bathroom, reinforcement of bathroom walls for future installation of grab bars, and accessible door handles, switches, and outlets.

Basic Adaptable Housing is required for newly-constructed residential buildings serviced by an elevator containing apartment or congregate housing uses.

Enhanced Adaptable Housing

The voluntary Enhanced Adaptable Housing Design Guidelines apply to apartment buildings. They provide a higher level of accessible and adaptable features than Basic Adaptable and are appropriate, for example, for seniors housing. Those applying for rezoning and development permit applications for apartment buildings are encouraged to incorporate as many of these features as possible.

Single Family and Townhouse Adaptable Housing

Accessibility and adaptability are also important for ground-oriented housing. The intent is to provide the flexibility to enable an occupant to live on the ground floor if necessary, and to improve general accessibility into and throughout the dwelling unit.

A no-step entry can usually be incorporated without a ramp by grading the walkway to the front door. Builders undertaking subdivisions and construction projects are encouraged to incorporate the voluntary Single Family and Townhouse Adaptable Housing Design Guidelines (p.4) into their developments.

More Information

For more information, please read the FAQ, or contact the Planning Department.


Reference Material

  • Flexhousing: Houses that Adapt to Life’s Changes, 1999, Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation
  • The Adaptable House, 2002, Avi Friedman, McGraw-Hill Ryerson Publications
  • Building Access Handbook, 2007, Building Requirements for Persons with Disabilities from British Columbia Building Code 2006 including Illustrations and Commentary. British Columbia Office of Housing and Construction Standards.