Spring 2015

Planning and Zoning for Group Homes: Local Government Obligations and Liability Under the Fair Housing act

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Planning and Zoning for Group Homes: Local Government Obligations and Liability Under the Fair Housing act

The twenty-fifth anniversary of the passage of the Fair Housing Act Amendments occurred in 2013. Although the Fair Housing Act (FHA) has existed since 1968, protection for people with disabilities was added in 1988. In the 1980s, when the FHAA was passed, the medical, psychological, and sociological fields were in the process of recognizing that smaller, more intimate housing arrangements dispersed throughout the community were the most appropriate living arrangements for persons with disabilities. These developments triggered unforeseen levels of community conflict, and ultimately, much litigation surrounding local government regulations, particularly zoning. Long-standing social fears and biases directed against persons with disabilities have come to the fore as local governments seek to carry out their obligations under the law and housing developments for persons with disabilities make efforts to locate in established residential neighborhoods. And in some cases, local governments and their officials have been the driving force behind community fears and biases. Although litigation is seldom the best way to resolve conflicts, one of the positive outcomes of litigation over community-based housing for persons with disabilities and the FHAA has been a significant evolution and, ultimately, clarification of the law relating to land use regulations and housing for this population. With a quarter-century of legal developments in the area of fair housing as a guide, local governments and lawyers can gain a much more informed understanding of the meaning and requirements of the FHAA.

Occupy Nashville v. Haslam; Palmer v. Dist. of Columbia; Kroll v. White Lake Ambulance Auth.; Nordstrom v. Ryan; Cox v. Onondaga Cnty. Sheriff’s Dep’t; El Dorado Estates v. Fillmore; City of Baton Rouge/Parish of East Baton Rouge v. Meyers; Lopez-Valenzuela v. Arpaio; Doe v. Galster; Ollier v. Sweetwater Union High Sch. Dist.; Alvarez v. Ercole; United States v. Katzin; State v. Devens; Underwood v. City of Moultrie


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