Visitability HousingJanuary 24, 2008Equal Opportunity & Cultural Diversity Committee Federal Issues CommitteeThe following is for study only and has NOT been approved bythe Board of Directors.
Issue: Should C.A.R., in conjunction with NAR, adopt the policy that: “Though C.A.R., in conjunction with NAR, believes that visitability, the ability to host visitors with mobility impairments, can be important in homes, still C.A.R. believes that any visitability policy should be defined as voluntary. Further, C.A.R. believes that the market is the best mechanism to produce visitable housing and opposes any visitability mandates.” Action: Action is not required at this time
Not Real Estate Related
Status/Summary:Some local communities have been discussing the need for visitability housing and it landed on the radar for REALTORS®. Whilethere was no pressing local, state, or federal legislation that promoted a look at this policy, NAR decided to bring it up as a policy issue at their May Mid-year meetings.At the May NAR meetings there was a motion “That NAR support, inconcept, housing visitability features which allow family members and guests with mobility impairments to visit a home through an accessible entry, one accessible room, and an accessible bathroom”.
However, the conceptand application of visitability housing was still vague. Would this be for all new housing or would it include previously built housing? What would the impact be on affordable housing? Because of these questions, the NAR Executive Committee recommended that committees’ further study the issue and that NAR form a formal working group on the issue. The working group was formed and presented their findings at the November NARmeetings. After some debate and revisions, the policy being considered today was the policy adopted by NAR at their November meetings.Background: Visitability Housing (also known as Accessible Housing) isdesigned and built to allow guests with mobility impairments to visit someone in their home without architectural barriers impeding their ability to move in and out of the home or use facilities that a guest would need. Such housing also makes it easier for residents to adapt their house as they age and develop mobility impairments. A significant number of local governments have required or encouraged new housing to be built with accessible features. There are some national voices calling for greater inclusion of accessible features in new homes as well.
Housing which is accessible may be more attractive to buyers who have friends and relatives with mobility impairments. The costs associated with adding basic accessibility features, such as no-threshold steps, wider doors, and larger guest bathrooms, adds less to the cost of housing at the time of construction, compared to the cost of these additions in a remodel. Such housing could be marketed as accessible to buyers.
Pro: The pro to this policy would be that it makes any visitability housing option voluntary. While this can be useful for many people who may have visitors with mobility impairments, making it mandatory could increasethe cost of housing for everybody. While useful, visitable housing is not needed for every homeowner and the costs in new construction, let alone in remodeling, could be extensive.Con: The con to making this option voluntary is that the cheapest and best time to add visitability housing would be in new construction. The costs to making these changes are substantially less when a house is being built versus having to remodel a house and add these options. A homeowner may not need visitability housing now, but may later without knowing that the change will be required. Not having new houses required to have visitable housing could mean that homeownerswill incur future remodeling costs higher then it would have been to have these options put on at the time the house was built.Impact on REALTORS®: Depending on how visitability rules were written, it could be a major headache for REALTORS®. If the requirements were that only new developments needed visitability housing, it could further increase the cost of housing. When the housing market is looking for ways to put more capital into the market, now would not be a good time to raise construction costs. If visitability housing rules included all homes, it would mean that REALTORS® would have to work with their clients to either upgrade their homes beforesale to meet the new requirements or be able to advise a buyer what upgrades they would be forced to make in order to meet the new requirements. Making visitability housing voluntary would impose no new rules or regulations on REALTORS®.NAR Policy: At the November NAR meetings, NAR took the following policy: “Though NAR believes that visitability, the ability to host visitors with mobility impairments, can be important in homes, still NAR believes that any visitability policy should be defined as voluntary. Further, NAR believes that the market is the best mechanism to produce visitable housing and opposes any visitability mandates.”
C.A.R.Policy: C.A.R. currently has no policy on visitability housing.Should C.A.R., in conjunction with NAR, adopt the policy that: “Though C.A.R., in conjunction with NAR, believes that visitability, the ability to host visitors with mobility impairments, can be important in homes, still C.A.R. believes that any visitability policy should be defined as voluntary. Further, C.A.R. believes that the market is the best mechanism to produce visitable housingand opposes any visitability mandates.”