Category Archives: Virginia

07/25 Granny Pods: a senior housing option in your own backyard

a woman and her daughter sitting in front of a granny podIf your house isn’t big enough to accommodate your aging parent or if a senior living community is out of the question, an alternative known as a “granny pod” – a tiny house in your backyard — may be a solution worth considering.

“Most people try to fit a living space for an aging person in their home, but the issue that always comes up is how to make the living quarters from the rest of the family separate, since most adult children doing the caregiving also have children of their own,” says home accessibility consultant and architectural designer Michael Saunders, who works with Toronto-based families to adapt their homes for multi-generational living.

“What ends up happening a lot is that the space ends up being a basement apartment, which isn’t ideal,” Saunders adds

Saunders says granny pods, also known as MEDCottages or guesthouses, are a useful and relatively low-cost solution that gives aging parents their own space while allowing adult children to easily provide necessary assistance.

Designed by a Blacksburg, Virginia-based company along with Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, the pre-fabricated, portable homes are typically installed in the caregiver’s backyard.

While the homes range in size, a typical granny pod is about 12 by 24 feet and includes a living space, kitchen and bathroom. Costing anywhere from $85,000 to $125,000, these homes tend to look resemble a miniature bungalow from the outside with vinyl siding and double French doors that allow access for hospital beds and other necessary equipment. They also come stocked with medical supplies and safety features designed with aging adults in mind, such as the following.

  • Hand railings
  • Lighted floorboards
  • Soft floors
  • Defibrillators
  • First aid supplies
  • Video devices that inform caregivers and doctors about vital signs, among other important information.

To get all the necessary utilities, Granny Pods are hooked up to the main home’s existing sewer, water and power lines.

“The most common difficulty I find with granny pods is complying with a municipality’s zoning by-laws. As these are a relatively new phenomenon, they aren’t explicitly covered in most by-laws, and are thus more likely to fall under ‘accessory structures,’ which may or may not be permitted, and may or may not include habitable space,” Saunders notes.

Still, he says, it’s best to approach your city officials and let them know what your intentions are for the home. “Some people are afraid to go to their municipality, but if you explain that it’s for an aging parent and that you’re not putting a house on the property to rent it out, they’ll be willing to work with you,” he says.

Before making the purchase, Saunders advises considering whether your yard has enough space and if it’s flat enough to hold the structure. Climate also plays a role. “If it snows a lot, you’ll have to build a path to get the person out,” says Saunders.

Better Options?
Even with all that granny pods have to offer, some believe the cons outweigh the pros.

“Depending on the granny in question, a person’s needs can change profoundly very quickly. So while you might think ‘I’ll deck out this little cool prefab room and my parent could be happy here for years’ if you’re really lucky that could be the case. But if you’re like most of us as we age, a person’s condition doesn’t stay stable for any period of time and the likelihood that they’d outgrow the environment that you’ve created for them is high,” says Tracey Lawrence, founder of Grand Family Planning which helps families find solutions for aging parents.

Read more – http://www.seniorhomes.com/w/granny-pods-a-senior-housing-option-in-your-own-backyard/

Suggested changes to Virginia’s Uniform Statewide Building Code for tiny houses on foundations

Here are changes suggested by Thom Stanton to accommodate tiny houses on foundations in Virginia:

Suggested Changes to the IRC

by Thom Stanton, American Tiny House Association’s Virginia State Chapter Leader

Thom defines a small house as being not more than 500 sq ft. and suggests these changes:

Section R327, Small Houses

  1. Access to the basements, underfloor areas and lofts shall be by means of alternating tread devices, ladders, or any means that complies with Section R311.
  2. The minimum floor areas of Section R304 shall not apply.
  3. The minimum ceiling height requirements of Section R305 shall not apply.
  4. Lofts used as sleeping areas shall not be required to comply with Section R310 provided that the loft opens to a floor containing an emergency escape and rescue opening.
  5. Basements and underfloor areas shall not be required to comply with Section R310 provided that the
  6. basement or underfloor area does not contain sleeping rooms.
  7. The minimum door sizes of Section R311.2 shall not apply.
  8. The hallway width requirements of Section R311.6 shall not apply.
  9. The guard requirements of Section R312 shall not apply to lofts.
  10. The automatic fire sprinkler requirements of Section R313 shall not apply.

Source:
VUSBC-2016_Tiny-House_Draft-01.pdf

Building code map

Handy map of the US. Just click on your state (in the link, not on the picture) to see which building codes are in effect: http://www.iccsafe.org/about-icc/overview/international-code-adoptions/

International Code Council Map

International Code Council map

Zoning in Augusta and Staunton Counties of Virginia

Augusta county, Virginia, has a minimum size limit for residential homes at 900 square feet. This is part of zoning. The only way to get a smaller home would be to have your land in an area zoned agriculture. Tim Fitzgerald, the director of community development, pointed out Monday night that 90 percent of the county is agriculture zoned.

Now, once you meet that criterion, you’d have to apply for an administrative permit or a special-use permit to allow for a smaller dwelling. Each has to be presented to the Board of Supervisors and other county departments.

Staunton County has it a bit easier. The minimum dwelling size is 200 square feet under the building code. The zoning laws just have specifics on how far back the house should be, the space between the end of the property line and the home, etc.

For more information – http://www.newsleader.com/story/newsbeat/2015/04/28/the-dos-and-donts-of-tiny-houses/26507565/

Park Model RV Regulations, State-by-State

The RVIA has provided a table showing regulations by state for park model RVs
http://www.rvia.org/UniPop.cfm?v=2&OID=3531&CC=7616

What is a park model? 

Below is a description from the RVIA:

On July 1, 2012, RVIA created a new membership category for manufacturers of park model RVs (PMRVs). A park model RV (also known as a recreational park trailer) is a trailer-type RV that is designed to provide temporary accommodation for recreation, camping or seasonal use. PMRVs are built on a single chassis, mounted on wheels and have a gross trailer area not exceeding 400 square feet in the set -up mode. They are certified by their manufacturers as complying with the ANSI A119.5 standard for recreational park trailers.

PMRVs are most often used in recreational vehicle campgrounds. They may be owned by the campground and rented to guests, or they may be brought in and used exclusively by their owners on a site rented or leased from the campground. They can also be placed by their owners on private property. These RVs are used for recreational purposes only. They are not meant to be permanently affixed to the property, they do not improve property values in any way, and they are neither designed nor intended by their manufacturers to be used as permanent residences.

Two different types of park model RVs are offered. One type is less than 8′ 6″ in width and is designed for frequent travel on the highways while the other and more popular type is wider than 8′ 6″ (usually 12′ in width), and must be transported with special movement permit. The 8′ 6″ unit typically is expandable when it reaches its destination utilizing slide-outs or tip-outs. The wider units, being less mobile, are usually sited in a resort or RV park location for an extended term, typically several years. Park model RVs are titled as vehicles by the various states. This is because PMRVs are built on permanent chassis such that they can be and are moved either within a campground or between campgrounds.

Free Online Zoning Codes

Here are two sources of online codes:

  • Municodes from the Nation’s leading legal publisher.
  • The American Legal Publishing Company provides a free online library of state and municipal codes for most locations. Click on the map to go to the library and chose your state and city. Then search or scroll for descriptions of minimum lot sizes, setback rules, etc.

    American Legal Publishing Compay online library

    American Legal Publshing Company online library


    Information is available for all states except these 13: AL, CO, ID, KS, LA, MO, MS, ND, NV, UT, VT, WA, WY.