Planning and Zoning for Group Homes: Local Government Obligations and Liability Under the Fair Housing Amendments Act
Across the diverse landscape of land use matters, few regulatory issues and approval processes elicit as much emotion and opposition as planning and zoning decisions relating to housing for persons with disabilities. While such facilities have proven invaluably beneficial in the care and treatment of one of the most underserved populations in the United States—those with disabilities—community discrimination against people with disabilities has limited, and in some cases has wiped out, the willingness of local governments to approve such housing. As advances in the medical, sociological, and psychological fields have encouraged movement away from the early-to-mid twentieth century approach of large-scale institutionalization of persons with physical and cognitive disabilities and mental illnesses, and as civil rights organizations have exposed the mistreatment of people with disabilities that has pervaded much of history, pressure has increased on non-profit organizations and local communities to provide housing for people with disabilities in smaller congregational settings located in predominantly residential areas generally occupied by persons without disabilities. Consequently, local governments are increasingly called upon to decide the fate of applications by social service organizations and other treatment facility operators to locate and operate housing facilities for people with disabilities in local jurisdictions.