Department of Planning and Development

Fairfax County, Virginia

CONTACT INFORMATION: Regular hours are 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday - Friday. Check the DPD Operating Status webpage for more information.

TTY 711

12055 Government Center Parkway
Fairfax, VA 22035

Tracy Strunk,

Department Resources

Related Resources

Older Adult Housing in Fairfax County

Older Adult HousingThe Comprehensive Plan and Zoning Ordinance are among the tools used to guide land development in Fairfax County. The Comprehensive Plan includes several policies that support increasing the number and variety of housing opportunities available to older adults. Likewise, the Zoning Ordinance provides for use and location regulations for the various housing options available to older adults. A summary of a few of these policies and regulations is provided here to assist with planning and development of older adult housing in Fairfax County. More detailed information can be obtained from the Fairfax County Comprehensive Plan and the Fairfax County Zoning Ordinance.

Comprehensive Plan Policies

Increasing Supply

  • Fairfax County is committed to continuing to build and maintain a vibrant, resilient community that views housing as critical infrastructure and encourages development of a full spectrum of housing opportunities and housing affordability for all income levels. (Housing Element of the Comprehensive Plan Policy Plan)
  • Promote the development of multifamily and senior housing in both Mixed-Use Centers and existing residential areas, as appropriate, in an effort to diversify the housing stock and expand lower cost housing options. (Objective 2, Policy b of the Housing Element of the Comprehensive Plan Policy Plan)
  • The county should increase the supply of housing available to special populations, including the physically and mentally disabled, the homeless, and the low-income elderly people with intellectual, development, and physical disabilities, families and individuals who are/were homeless, and seniors with low- and moderate-income. (Objective 5 of the Housing and Land Use Elements of the Comprehensive Plan Policy Plan)
  • Promote multifamily housing for the elderly and the handicapped seniors and people with disabilities that is conveniently located to public transportation and community services. (Objective 5, Policy D of the Land Use Element of the Comprehensive Plan Policy Plan)
  • Increase the supply of housing available to older adults and other special populations in all areas of the County including transit–oriented developments (TODs). (Appendix 11 of the Land Use Element of the Comprehensive Plan Policy Plan)
  • Provide for a range of housing opportunities by incorporating a mix of housing types and sizes for different income levels. (Appendix 11 of the Land Use Element of the Comprehensive Plan Policy Plan)
  • Encourage universal design in the development of affordable and market rate housing to increase age-in-place options and facilitate optimal independent living. (Objective 4, Countywide Objectives and Policies of the Land Use Element of the Comprehensive Plan Policy Plan)

Location Guidelines for Multi-Family Older Adult Developments (Appendix 1 of the Land Use Element of the Comprehensive Plan Policy Plan)

Locational guidelines for housing for the elderly should recognize the needs of the elderly as well as site characteristics. With regard to residents for whom health and mobility have become a concern, guidelines for the location of multifamily residential development should be modified as described below. With regard to residential facilities such as congregate housing and nursing homes, which are designed to serve the elderly population in need of continuous medical/nursing care, these developments are less location sensitive than other elderly residential developments.

  • Public transportation and community services should be located within reasonable walking distance and should be accessible via paved, lighted, and secure and well-maintained walkways. Crosswalks should be delineated, and adequate provisions should be made for crossing heavy traffic (e.g., pedestrian crossing signals). If neither public transportation nor community services are within a short walking distance (i.e., a 5-7 minute walk), the development should provide shuttle bus service which can offer residents comparable access to community services.
  • The topography of the site and that between the site and nearby destinations should be considered when siting residential developments for older adults. Pedestrian facilities should not be located on slopes greater than 5-8% and such slopes should not be continuous for more than 75 feet.
  • Safety and security are of particular concern to the older adults. To the extent possible, the architecture and site design for multifamily residential development for older adults should incorporate features which reduce the potential for crime and enhance the security of residents.

Develop Older Adult Day Health Centers

  • Ensure programmatic integration by co-locating adult day health centers with senior centers and senior housing, where feasible.
  • Locate centers in or near residential communities to minimize transportation requirements of families.

Continuing Care Facility Guidelines (Appendix 14 of the Land Use Element of the Comprehensive Plan Policy Plan)

The Continuing Care Facility (CCF) use is intended to provide for the development of a wide array of accommodations and service choices to facilitate the opportunity for occupants to age-in-place or move within levels of support as care needs change. The development of secondary uses such as offices, restaurants, recreation, and stores may be appropriate to support the CCF use and its occupants. Continuing Care Facilities are considered community service facilities under Virginia Code § 15.2- 2223(C). 

A CCF may be established in an area that is planned for institutional, residential, mixed use, or commercial development; or where those uses are compatible with, or recommended by the Comprehensive Plan. The maximum floor area ratio is based on the land use recommendation in the Plan for a CCF or on the land use recommendation for other uses, as modified by the conversion table in the Zoning Ordinance. 

A CCF proposed per this appendix may be deemed to be compatible with the Comprehensive Plan even if not specifically shown on the Comprehensive Plan Map or recommended in the Comprehensive Plan text as a particular use for a property.
Standards for Reviewing a CCF:

  • Compatibility
  • Transportation
  • Site and Building Design
  • Affordability
  • Environment
  • Parks and Recreation
  • Libraries, Fire and Rescue Services, Stormwater Management, and Other Public Facilities

Zoning Ordinance Provisions

Residential Uses: Household Living

Group Residential Facility

  • A licensed home or facility where no more than eight mentally ill, intellectually disabled, or developmentally disabled persons reside with one or more counselors or staff
  • A licensed home or facility where no more than eight aged, infirmed, or disabled persons reside with one or more resident counselors or staff
  • A home or facility where eight persons with disabilities reside with one or more counselors
  • Any dwelling unit of any kind (single-family detached, attached, stacked townhouse, or multifamily) may be occupied by a group residential facility as a by-right  occupancy

Residential Uses: Group Living

Congregate Living Facility

  • Permanent or temporary Housing and general care (training, treatment, or special care) in supportive setting with on-site counselors
  • Includes facilities offering in-patient alcohol and addiction treatment and services and facilities for the care of more than eight persons with disabilities
  • May be in a single-family detached dwelling (subject to setback regulations)

Group Household

  • Approval of a special permit by the Board of Zoning Appeals
  • Allows an increase in the number of residents up to 10 persons not related by blood or marriage, or a family and more than two roomers or boarders

Public, Institutional, and Community Uses: Community, Cultural, and Educational Facilities

Adult Day Support Center 

  • A nonresidential facility offering structured activities, training programs, and supportive services (including task learning, social, behavioral, and pre-vocational skills), and personal care during part of a 24-hour day to adults who have intellectual or developmental disabilities. 
  • Maybe permitted by-right or special exception based on the zoning district. 
  • No adult day support center may operate until a license has been granted by the appropriate State agency.

Public, Institutional, and Community Uses: Health Care

Adult Day Care Center

  • Provides health monitoring, therapeutic, and other supportive services in a protective setting during part of a 24-hour day to four or more adults who are aged, infirm, or who have cognitive or physical disabilities and who reside elsewhere. 
  • Requires a special exception and review by Health Care Advisory Board
  • No adult day care center may operate until a license has been granted by the appropriate agency of the State of Virginia

Continuing Care Facility 

  • Developed as an integrated facility offering  accommodation choices, medical care services and assistance with daily living in varying levels and combinations. 
  • Must provide mix of accommodation styles and services that allow opportunity to age-in-place. At a minimum, the facility must offer or provide on-site provision of meals, general housekeeping, facilitation of transportation, recreation, health- or hygiene-related care, assistance with activities of daily living, and other services integral to the personal, health, and therapeutic care of persons.
  • Provides onsite supervision and administration and may include other secondary uses. 
  • Facility size governed by floor area ratio (FAR). 
  • Requires review by Health Care Advisory Board

Independent Living Facility

  • Dwelling units that are primarily age-restricted or limited to persons with disabilities
  • Support services such as meals, personal emergency response systems, recreation and transportation services, or features and amenities used individually or communally are provided
  • Universal Design features incorporated such as wider doorways, accessible bathrooms, and lower light switches
  • On-site staff
  • Minimum of 15% of the units are Affordable Dwelling Units (ADUs)
  • Density may be increased subject to a multiplier of four times the Comprehensive Plan recommended density in most instances
  • May include assisted living and skilled nursing facilities designed solely for the residents as an accessory use

Medical Care/Assisted Living Facility

  • Private or semi-private living quarters for persons unable to live independently
  • Supervision and general care, including but not limited to the provision of daily meals, general housekeeping, health- or hygiene-related care
  • Assistance with moderate activities of daily living
  • Facility size governed by floor area ratio (FAR) limits of the zoning district
  • Reviewed by Health Care Advisory Board

Medical Care/Nursing Facility 

  • Semi-private living quarters for persons established for the purpose of providing domiciliary or nursing care for chronic or convalescent patients on a temporary or permanent basis
  • Includes facilities such as a nursing home, extended care home, rehabilitation center, skilled nursing facility, rest home, or convalescent home
  • Assistance with activities of daily living
  • Facility size governed by floor area ratio (FAR) limits of the zoning district
  • Reviewed by Health Care Advisory Board

Accessory Uses

Accessory Living Unit (ALU)

  • Secondary dwelling unit in conjunction with and clearly subordinate to a single-family detached dwelling unit
  • Interior ALU allowed with the approval of an administrative permit or special permit to exceed certain standards
  • On lots two acres or larger, the accessory dwelling unit may be located in a freestanding accessory structure with special permit approval
  • Interior ALU limited to a maximum of 800 square feet or 40% of the gross floor area of the principal dwelling, whichever is less; may also use entirety of basement or cellar (up to the size of the basement/cellar as of July 1, 2021)
  • Detached ALUs limited to 1,200 square feet in size
  • Limited to two people and two bedrooms
  • Either the ALU or the principal dwelling unit must be owner occupied
  • ALUs are approved for an initial two-year period; may be extended by the Zoning Administrator for succeeding five year periods 

Family Health Care Structures

  • A transportable residential structure that is accessory to a single-family detached dwelling and provides an environment that facilitates a caregiver’s provision of care for a mentally or physically impaired person
  • Structure is limited to 300 square feet in size and must be removed within 60 days of last occupancy by person requiring care
  • Structures are administratively reviewed and approved by the Fairfax County Zoning Administrator
Fairfax Virtual Assistant