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Thread: Single family definition

  1. #1
    Cyburbian Streck's avatar
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    Single family definition

    What is the correct definition for Single Family?

    Is it defined as a single "housekeeping unit"? Meaning one kitchen, one main front door entry, one residential building, all rooms connecting to a common area within the dwelling, (no separate servant, guest, student, or mother-in-law cottages?)

    If the "cottage" is attached by trellis, or pergolla, or covered breezeway, is it considered attached and not a separate building?

    Is a separate sleeping area over a garage with a microwave, a bar sink, and bath room considered a separate dwelling for Single Family dwelling definition purposes, if it has a outside door?

    Would a "family" of 20 or more workers, relatives, or college students sharing a "single housekeeping unit" residence still be considered Single Family? When does this become an illegal boarding house, half-way house, ranch house, dorm, etc.

    If people are unrelated, must it be determined to be Multi-Family? Does the city have good legal basis to require proof that occupants are in fact of a related "single family" if the question arises.

    Is there a recommended model code where these types of questions have already been answered?

  2. #2
          Downtown's avatar
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    This is a great question. I remember reading an article a couple months ago about problems that Northern Virginian suburbs were having with families paving over their front lawns so there would be room for all of the household's vehicles - the household being comprised of 7-9 working adults (all with their own vehicles) from primarily immigrant families, who pooled their money to purchase a single family house, in single family neighborhoods that weren't designed to accommodate 7 car households.

    Here is my town's definitions for the purposes of zoning:

    FAMILY:
    A.Purpose: to maintain and preserve the character of the residential zones devoted to family values and to reduce traffic and parking congestion, population density, noise and other disturbances conflicting with the stable, uncongested residential environment. It is the intent of this chapter to permit all groups who are the functional equivalent of the natural family to live in zones set aside for residential purposes and to allow those uses recognized by the state to constitute familial-type living arrangements.

    B.Definition: one or more individuals occupying a dwelling unit and living together as a single household unit with common access to, and common use of, all facilities comprising the dwelling unit, as distinguished from a boarding or rooming house, fraternity or sorority house, club, motel and other similar uses.

    SINGLE-FAMILY DWELLING -- A permanent building containing only one dwelling unit.

    DWELLING UNIT -- One or more rooms for ownership, lease or rent designed, occupied or intended for occupancy by one family and physically independent of any other groups of rooms or dwelling units which may be in the same structure, containing independent cooking, sanitary and sleeping facilities.

  3. #3
          perryair's avatar
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    The definition of family is a hard one to define.I remember that in my planning law class, there was a case of a community saying that no more than a certain number (3 I think) of unrelated residents can live in a single family house. And when I was living in Gainesville at the University of Florida, I think that it was the same thing, that no more than three unrelated people could live in a single family structure.

    That didn't solve cases such as the seven related adults living in one house, although therre might be some code issue there with the total number of ocupants because of limited water/sewer capacity causing a health/safety/welfare issue.

    As far as a single family dwelling, I think that it would be defined as a free standing structure with four walls and a roof that was only to be occupied by a 'single family' , whereas a multi family structure would be a structure built so that multiple families could share living space.

  4. #4
    Cyburbian
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    occupancy limitations

    Section 4.14. Limitation on the occupancy of a dwelling unit.

    A dwelling unit may be occupied by not more than one (1) family, and such family may consist of not more than one (1) of the following

    [1] One (1) person or two (2) or more persons related by blood or marriage, with no more than two (2) roomers or boarders, and with any number of natural children, foster children, stepchildren or adopted children; or

    [2] A group of not more than four (4) persons not necessarily related by blood or marriage.

    [3] Limitations provided in this section do not apply to a dwelling unit which is utilized as a residential facility for handicapped persons as governed by the provisions of 42 U.S.C. § 3601 et seq.

    (Added April 22, 1996, ZA96-03-01)


    Our treatment of mother-in-law suites has been that it must be considered a separate dwelling if you can't freely go from that area to the main dwelling area without going outside(breezeways, carports and other setups without entirely enclosed spaces count as going outside). The theory being that you won't rent that space out to just anyone with that setup. Of course, if they can just put a lock on the door and rent out the main part of the house too, there is no way for us to know. If we actually do catch on and try to inspect they can simply remove the lock that day for our benefit.

  5. #5
    Cyburbia Administrator Dan's avatar
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    Good question. I has a resident come in yesterday to complain about a house in his development that we call "the Commune." There's two full-time adult residents, and about three or four guests at any given time. It's not a boarding house, though, because they don't pay for their accomodations, and the residence is not open to the general public.

    It's an upscale neighborhood, and although they're not poor immigrants, a couple of residents have a similar concern about parking; five or six adults, each having their own car.

    Our current code is vague, but the new code reads:

    Family – individual living alone, or any of these groups living together as a housekeeping unit and sharing common living, sleeping, cooking and eating facilities:
    * any number of persons related by blood, marriage, adoption, guardianship or other authorized custodial relationship unless the number is specifically limited in the Land Use Code.
    * an unrelated group of up to three persons.
    * two unrelated adults and their related children.

    Single family detached residence -- building containing a single residential unit, not attached to any other residential unit or building.

    Residence - building used exclusively for residential occupancy and permitted accessory uses, including single family residences, two-family residences and multi-family residences. The term does not include group homes, boarding houses, hotels, motels, tents, vehicles, or other structures designed or used primarily for temporary occupancy. Any residence is considered a principal building.

    Residential unit - one or more rooms intended for occupancy by one family for cooking, sanitary and sleeping purposes, independent of other residential units that may be in the same structure.

    The code has separate definitions and regulations for group homes, fraternity/sorority houses, boarding houses, and so on.

    As far as "the Commune" goes, zoning power can't, and won't be used to exclude people from a community just because they act "strange."
    Growth for growth's sake is the ideology of the cancer cell. -- Edward Abbey

  6. #6
    Cyburbian Streck's avatar
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    Thanks for your responses. I wonder if the word "family" is the trouble spot.

    We know what we mean, but it is hard to define "family" in a reasonable code related way. Maybe it should be "single dwelling" or "detached dwelling" without using the word "family".

    Another definition of "family" has come to my attention: "tribe"
    Isn't a tribe a form of a family?

    It seems like we still would want to limit the number of occupants in some way, because . . . . . . . . . . ?

  7. #7
    Cyburbian Streck's avatar
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    Hey! We're all related to Noah!!!

  8. #8
    Cyburbian Habanero's avatar
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    Ugh

    The last city I worked for didn't define what a family was.. just think of the calls..

    "but can't you say that 4 adults can't live in the single-family district?"

    "uh.. no.. we don't define what a family is"

    they only time our city got involved if it was Section 8 and HUD was involved, and then we let them take care of the situation with their definition.
    When Jesus said "love your enemies", he probably didn't mean kill them.

  9. #9
    Cyburbian Streck's avatar
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    I guess postal regulations could help, too, if the address becomes 1234 1/2 Elm St. or 432-A Elm St. or 1357 Elm St. Apt B.

  10. #10
    INACTIVE
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    It sounds like the major problem with a lot of people living in a home is auto use and traffic.In Queens we have the same problem of people paving their lawns to add parking spaces in front of their house.While there is no law against cementing a drive way in front of your house there is a law against taking out your lawn to cement it for the heck of it[no lawn care].Unfortunately the fine is only $90 and there is no need to retore the lawn.Same thing goes for trees,pay the fine and do what you want.In most areas lawnectomies are rampant but in trendy areas like old Brooklyn ,protected by historical zoning,off site parking is almost nonexistent.The result is people have to walk to their car on the street ,and in turn to the local stores,making these areas and much of New York City very vibrant and pedestrian friendly.

  11. #11
    Cyburbian permaplanjuneau's avatar
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    Some related definitions from the City and Borough of Juneau, AK:

    "Boardinghouse and roominghouse mean a dwelling in which commercial lodging is provided by the owner or operator to more than three persons. The term "boardinghouse and roominghouse" includes houses offering bed and breakfast.

    "Dwelling means a building or portion thereof, used exclusively for human habitation.

    "Dwelling unit means a residential use consisting of a building or portion thereof, providing independent and complete cooking, living, sleeping and toilet facilities for one family.

    "Family means one or more persons living as a single housekeeping unit, as distinguished from a group occupying a group home.

    "Group home means a residential use such as a roominghouse or dwelling for persons seeking rehabilitation or recovery from any physical, mental, emotional, or legal disability, or any combination thereof, in a family setting, including a child care residence, halfway house, home for persons with disabilities, intermediate care home and nursing care home."

    I like these definitions because we don't get into the questionable territory of regulating what a family is on a holier-than-thou moral basis--if you say you're a family, we aren't going to argue. Of course, this only works for us because we don't have any fraternities/sororities at the local college, so no complaints from neighbors on that front. We have a few extended families living in close quarters, and have had to use the building code to ensure that there are adequate sanitary facilities/egress windows/etc., but as long as they can meet health & safety codes, what could the government's interest in regulating family size/type be? Noise and parking are all regulated on their own basis as well, and since nearly everyone in Alaska has multiple cars, boats, trailers, ATVs, etc., and nobody parks cars in their garage (that's where skis, bikes, kayaks, and chest freezers go), we're all used to seeing a mess of cars/trucks/boats etc. in everyone's yard (even in the tony neighborhoods, where signs often prohibit parking vehicles with trailers on the street during the winter due to snow removal concerns).

    As for Streck's original question regarding what makes one dwelling attached to another, we have a two-part test. The first is that they have to be under the same roof, and the second is that they have to share at least 15 linear feet of common wall, so a breezeway doesn't count as connecting two dwellings.

  12. #12
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    Single-family unit

    A very murky area--and apparently open to abuse on both sides. Ten years ago, I bought a single-family home that had a legally permitted residential addition attached to it by a covered breezeway; the addition was built 50 years ago, and apparently had a kitchen sink built in at the time, though the sink does not show up on the official property card (the bathroom, bedroom and living room do, however). As far as I know, the addition has been in continuous occupancy (though never by more than two people) since it was built, with no formal complaints from neighbors or the City. Until last year.

    What happened was that the City posted the next block over as "Residential parking only", with permits required, and, suddently, 3-5 other cars from that block began being parked at our end of the block, and then Code Enforcement was called in. They inspected the addition (suspecting, perhaps, that I had illegally subdivided it), and said that the sink was illegal, but after discussing the matter with Building and Zoning, and telling them that one or both of our grown children might have to move back, due to the recession, I was allowed to remove the original sink in the addition and replace it with a bar sink.

    In other words, what prompted a visit from Code Enforcement was not that unrelated people were living in the addition, but that there was a sudden jump in the number of cars parked on the street at our end of the block. The City itself was willing to compromise about the sink.

    So the"bottom line" seems to be a congestion of cars and people coming and going that is felt to be inconsistent with "a single-family area".

    Rosebud

  13. #13
    Cyburbian mike gurnee's avatar
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    The concept of single family house needs to go away. It will not stand up in most state courts. What is the difference between a couple with three teenagers (one with spouse) and six unrelated adults? Each would perhaps have 6+ vehicles. Beef up your occupancy standards and enforce them. However, neighbors will not like to hear this.

  14. #14
    Cyburbian
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    In Canada, there was a federal case which basically handicapped cities in how they can define a family - it basically said you couldn't. If I recall correctly, there has since been other cases where groups like sororities (did I spell that right?) had been taken to court and they one - they are family by association.

    So typically (at least out here in Alberta) we define things as Single Detached Dwellings (not family). With the growing trend of immigrant families, which are quite large, the struggle of defining family will continue.

  15. #15
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    Los Angeles Proposed Ordinance

    Los Angeles is proposing to change the definition of family and single housekeeping unit. See: http://cityplanning.lacity.org/Code_...reFacility.pdf

    Is this in keeping with current definitions in other cities?

  16. #16
    moderator in moderation Suburb Repairman's avatar
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    From my fair city (college town)

    111. Family means any number of individuals living together as a single housekeeping unit who are related by blood, legal adoption, marriage, or conservatorship.

    Section 4.3.4.5 Occupancy Restrictions
    (a) Limited Number of Unrelated Individuals. All dwelling units located in SF-R, SF-11, SF-6, SF-4.5, DR, TH, PH-ZL zoning districts shall be restricted to occupancy by a family, and up to one other person who is not related to any of the family members by blood, legal adoption, marriage, or conservatorship.

    (b) Prima facie proof of occupancy of a dwelling unit by more than two unrelated persons is established in any prosecution for violation of this Section if it is shown that the same three or more vehicles with registrations to persons having different surnames and addresses were parked overnight at the dwelling unit a majority of nights in any 21-day period. This establishment of a prima facie level of proof in this subsection does not preclude a showing of "occupancy" of a dwelling unit by a person in any other manner.

    (c) The property owner and any agent of the property owner shall be legally responsible for directly or indirectly allowing, permitting, causing, or failing to prohibit the occupancy of a dwelling unit by more than two unrelated persons.


    I think this provision is a ticking timebomb for a couple of reasons, one being what mike gurnee mentioned. In Texas, gay marriage/civil unions are not legal. So let's say you have a homosexual couple and they decide to let one of their friends live with them. Nobody in the home would be related by blood, legal adoption, marriage or conservatorship (because they can't legally get married), and would therefore violate the ordinance. In contrast, a married heterosexual couple could do the same thing and remain in compliance without worry. I also see a problem because more people are choosing cohabitative relationships without marriage. For all intents and purposes each of these couples is living together as a single housekeeping unit and are not violating the intent of the ordinance (which was to keep landlords from renting homes to 4-5 college students at a time and creating a bunch of Animal Houses).

    "Oh, that is all well and good, but, voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country."

    - Herman Göring at the Nuremburg trials (thoughts on democracy)

  17. #17
    Cyburbian
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    I went back through this and found many of you are having problems with the paving over of front lawns, because the 'family' is so large not all vehicles fit in the driveway.

    One of the places I used to work (Halifax Regional Municipality) had a rule that limited the maximum amount of paved surface in the front yard could not exceed 33% of the total yard area. This way; you could still have your driveway and perhaps a parking pad - but the lawn was maintained. It was a requirement which the development officer couldn't apply a variance too; so if they applied for a permit and it was more than 33%; it was automatically refused. The appeals process, from what I recall, was quite complex.

  18. #18
    Cyburbian jswanek's avatar
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    .

    People with enough resources today often want a separate guesthouse for the loud teenagers, with its own kitchenette, perhaps another for overnight party crashed-outers, with its own kitchenette, another for long-term guests, with its own full kitchen, another for elderly family members being cared for, with its own full kitchen, pool cabana with kitchenette, maid's quarters with its own kitchen, etc.

    Take a look at the floorplans of the most dispersed-design "single family residence" on a larger lot you've EVER approved, and then ask yourself if you would have allowed that same floor plan in a poor neighborhood new immigrants are attracted to.

    .
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