Arlington to Allow Elder Care Facilities In More Areas

Published on December 17, 2019

The Arlington County Board today voted to allow elder care and assisted living facilities to be built in areas where multifamily development already is allowed, in a bid to increase options for residents seeking to stay in Arlington as they age.

"Arlington values its elders, and our population of older Arlingtonians is growing," Arlington County Board Chair Christian Dorsey said. "We know that older low-and-moderate-income residents often fear that housing costs will force them to leave this community, where many have lived, and contributed so much, for decades. With this action, the Board is making it possible for more elder care facilities to be built and to operate across the County, a change we hope will greatly expand housing opportunities for our older residents."

The Board voted unanimously to amend the Zoning Ordinance to expand the allowable areas to 18 zoning districts, located near and along Arlington's major planning corridors, with site plan approval. Elder care uses include independent living facilities, assisted living facilities, nursing homes and continuing care retirement communities.Portrait of caregiver

To read the staff report and details of the adopted and proposed Zoning Ordinance amendments, visit the County website. Scroll to Item No. 44 on the agenda for the Tuesday, Dec. 17, 2019 Recessed County Board Meeting.

The Board's action follows priorities developed as part of the Housing Arlington initiative. Housing Arlington is designed to foster policies and land use tools that help the County achieve its affordable housing goals and diversify and expand the housing supply to better serve and sustain Arlington's diverse population. Staff conducted a broad study to determine how the Zoning Ordinance could be updated and modernized to allow a greater geographic distribution and more possibilities for building new elder care facilities in Arlington.

The Board also directed the County Manager to undertake an interdepartmental review of "elder care affordability" and report to the Board on a projected timeline for the review in the first quarter of 2020.


More than 35,000 people, or 14 percent of Arlington's population, are above the age of 60, and that percentage is expected to grow in coming decades. Arlington, however, has just six assisted living facilities offering about 518 beds, four nursing homes with about 602 beds, and five independent living communities with about 1,294 beds. No new elder care developments have been built in Arlington since 1999.

Public engagement

County staff held a public forum on October 7, 2019 to share findings of the Zoning Ordinance study and to collect feedback. Staff also conducted an online survey of County residents and other interested stakeholders in fall 2019 and conducted site visits to three elder care facilities in the region to better understand the land use characteristics of elder care housing. Staff presented to NAIOP, the Commercial Real Estate Development Association, and to several County advisory commissions, including the Commission on Aging, the Housing and Planning commissions, and the Disability Advisory Commission.