Lots of things can influence this. Among them are what the land is ‘zoned’ for. Cities and towns are zoned to prevent industry from butting up against neighborhoods, and to promote the transportation of commerce and people.
There are zones for high rise apartments, single family homes, public housing, assisted living, etc. This includes a set of rules and laws that must be followed to maintain suitable living conditions. One of the most important things about a house is the quality of the roof. Once water starts getting in, things go from bad to worse in a hurry. If substantial damage is done for whatever reason it can be declared unsuitable for living and the people must move out.
These laws differ from state to state, and it is sometimes possible to change the zoning of a building. This is why people live in ‘lofts’ that used to be warehouses and other large buildings not originally designed for habitation. The design of the building also makes it livable. Most architects are passionate about how people experience their buildings and with a few notable exceptions (Mies Van der Rohe) design buildings with their customers in mind.
So, zoning and design are big but not crucial to make a building a living building. But these can be skirted. What is certain is that a building permit would have to be acquired in any kind of an urban setting. Height, and ‘footprint’ size of the building can both play a role in getting this kind of thing approved.
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