Exploring Housing Options in Frederick County

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    My wife and I are interested in purchasing a home with land to create a group home for our moderately functioning, adult autistic son (and others).  We believe it is possible to select a service provider for staffing the home, but we have many questions about zoning, ADA compliance, etc.  We hope that we might learn more through this forum.

    Is it possible to obtain property designated as agricultural and developing a group home for 2-3 clients plus caregiver(s)?

    Does the state require ADA compliance for homes?

    Though it seems likely, must all clients be served through the same service provider?



    I visited the Frederick County Zoning and Permit Office.  They were very nice and were able to answer some of my questions which I will share.

    Yes, a home must be ADA compliant to become a licensed group home.  From my understanding, doorways must be sufficient width (36″) for wheelchairs (even when there are no residents in wheelchairs).  All homes built after 2010 must have sprinkler systems.  I’m reasonably certain an older home must be retrofitted with a sprinkler system to meet the current fire protection standards.  Showers must be also accessible — a walk in type, again sufficient for a wheelchair.  Shower controls must be reachable for the person in the wheelchair.  Stairs must have either a ramp (short steps) or a stair lift, or the home must have an elevator to provide access to living areas.  A multi story home, I suspect, would be okay without a lift if the upstairs bedroom is used only by staff, for example.

    Rezoning for a group home can be difficult, depending on the current zoning.  Agricultural land should not be as difficult as higher density residential, but must follow the rezoning process nonetheless which I believe would include a public notice and a meeting.  As for service providers, I believe they have less to gain from having a single client in a home.  I believe it makes sense to go with a single provider, particularly for those requiring only 1:3 client to staff ratio.

    Finally, I believe it would be very difficult for the average parent to create a group home for self directed clients.  In this situation, I believe it would become necessary for the owners/parents/etc. to become licensed service providers.

    Desiree Kameka

    Greetings Del,

    The first step would be to determine if you really want to create a licensed group home.  A few things:

    1. It is not necessary to create a licensed group home, and that model may become a more restrictive environment than needed. Your son and friends can live in the home and each have different service providers they prefer. This way if someone’s needs change, they do not have to give up their home to change service providers.
    2. You do not have to give or donate the home to a service provider in order for them to serve your son and his friends in the home. This is not necessary and can put him at risk in the future.
    3. There should not be any extraordinary zoning issues that arise just because the tenants would have disabilities. SOMETIMES the zoning issue may be having more than a few unrelated persons living together, but that is a local issue.
    4. If the home is a private and NOT LICENSED, the home does not need to be ADA compliant nor have sprinklers, etc. It is suggested that the home allows residents to age in place and be able to invite friends over who may use a wheelchair. You can find accessibility checklists and tips in the AHN Resource Directory.

    Feel free to schedule a consult if you have further specific questions: http://www.autismhousingnetwork.org/schedule-30-minute-consultation/

    Also, it may be helpful to view this AHN Virtual Tour of Housing and Support Models which outlines 18 different models to offer inspration: http://www.autismhousingnetwork.org/education/virtual-tour-housing-options/



    Thank you so much for the information.  Given the current availability of housing for special needs adults, I’m encouraged that parents have a number of options.

    Kindest regards,



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