Skip to content


Return to Blog »

College Housing – Dormitories, Residence Halls, and Apartments – What to comply with?



Janis Kent, Architect, FAIA, CASp © August, 2015

With the 2010 ADA Standards, college housing, if operated by or on behalf of a place of education, is considered transient lodging even though the period of stay is over 30 days. What this means is, it is required to comply with the ADA Standards, and in California, Section 11B as well.

If it is an elevatored building or there are 4 or more units on the ground floor, it may very well also be covered under the FHA depending upon when constructed.

Then like many things in Access, the question comes up – where does the money come from? If the school has any public funds (city, county, or state), or is a state or community college, then college housing would need to meet the ADA Standards for Title II for transient lodging and if existing may need a transition plan if any physical elements need to be revised in order to be made accessible. If the school is a recipient of any Federal funds then it would also be required to meet Section 504 thru the application of UFAS and if existing, a transition plan might be required as well.

There is an exception for college housing not having to meet transient lodging requirements. If the housing is comprised of apartments or townhouses only, leased on a year round basis to graduate students and/or faculty, AND if there is no public or common spaces used for educational programming, then it would not be required to comply with transient lodging requirements of ADAS. It would, though, be required to meet the ADAS residential requirements even if there are no public funds. This is unusual since the residential portion of ADAS typically applies to public housing only.

I would think that the first step is to find out if the housing is operated by or on behalf of the college. If so, we have ADA transient lodging triggered, and then the next step would be to find out if the college receives any federal funds which might very well exist in some fashion. If so this would trigger Section 504 with UFAS as well. If there are public funds then it would also trigger Title II of ADAS. If the college housing is new or built after March 13, 1991 then FHA would be triggered presuming the building is elevatored with 4 or more units or it is non-elevatored with 4 or more units on the ground floor. So you could possibly have a project that is required to meet ADA both Title II and Title III, UFAS, FHA, and then local codes and regulations. And if it is for graduate students and faculty leased on a year round basis with no educational programming spaces then you would need to meet the residential portion under ADA even if there are no public funds involved for this specific housing project or the school. Now if this isn’t totally confusing you are fortunate.

Thanks to B.Zelmer and J Scott for the topic request. If you have a topic you’d like to request, please email me.

Be aware that your local City or County may have additional requirements that are more restrictive than the State or Federal requirements. Also, this article is an interpretation and opinion of the writer. It is meant as a summary – current original regulations should always be reviewed when making any decisions.

© Janis Kent, Architect, FAIA, CASp 2015