Florida Housing’s Approach to Universal Design and Visitability in Housing

The mission of Florida Housing is to assist in providing a range of affordable housing opportunities that are well matched to the needs of all citizens of the state of Florida.

The concepts of Universal Design and Visitability contribute to that mission by making more housing usable by more people at little or no extra cost. The following are the methods by which we have integrated those concepts into our programs.

Universal Design and Visitability Features

Universal Design is any component of a house that can be used by everyone regardless of their level of ability or disability. Universal features are generally standard building products or features that have been placed differently, selected carefully, or omitted. For example, standard electrical receptacles can be placed higher than usual above the floor, standard but wider doors can be selected, and steps at entrances can be eliminated to make housing more universally usable.

Visitability requirements consist of three features. We require these features for all units on accessible route. The features are:

  • at least one zero-step entrance on an accessible route leading from a driveway or public sidewalk,
  • all interior doors being wide enough to allow a wheelchair to pass through (32 in).
  • a bathroom on the main floor with at least a toilet and sink.

Florida Housing requires the following features in all of the units financed through its competitive application programs.

  • Primary entrance door shall have a threshold with no more than a ½- inch rise;
  • All door handles on primary entrance door and interior doors must have lever handles;
  • Lever handles on all bathroom faucets and kitchen sink faucets;
  • Ability to install horizontal grab bars to support at least 250 lbs.
  • Mid-point on light switches and thermostats shall not be more than 48 inches above finished floor level; and
  • Cabinet drawer handles and cabinet door handles in bathroom and kitchen shall be lever or D-pull type that operate easily using a single closed fist.

To assist aging in place, units that are in Elderly-only Developments must include these additional features:

  • At least 15% of the units must have accessible showers.
  • Grab bars in shower/tub

Florida Housing’s requires that the design, construction, or alteration of its financed Developments be in compliance with federal and state accessibility requirements. These include the following:

  • Florida Accessibility Code for Building Construction as adopted pursuant to Section 553.503, Florida Statutes.
  • The Fair Housing Act as implemented by 24 CFR 100.
  • Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973; and
  • Titles II and III of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 as implemented by 28 CFR 35.

All Developments must comply with Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as implemented by 24 CFR Part 8 (“Section 504 and its related regulations”).

All Developments must meet accessibility standards of Section 504. Section 504 accessibility standards require a minimum of 5 percent of the total dwelling units, but not fewer than one unit, to be accessible for individuals with mobility impairments. An additional 2 percent of the total units, but not fewer than one unit, must be accessible for persons with hearing or vision impairments. All of the accessible units must be equally distributed among different unit sizes and Development types and must be dispersed on all accessible routes throughout the Development.