Congresswoman Lois Frankel (D-District 22) said this week that a Joint Statement this month from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the Department of Justice (DOJ) will provide local municipalities with the legal clarity they need to maintain the safety and character of their communities while protecting the rights and needs of people with disabilities, including those recovering from drug addiction.
“This Joint Statement should give local governments the necessary guidance to help them keep neighborhoods safe and healthy, and protect persons with disabilities,” Frankel said.
The new directives were met with enthusiasm from local leaders.
“I appreciate Rep. Frankel’s dogged efforts on behalf of all cities looking for rational and defensible solutions that protect our citizenry and a vulnerable class that needed protection,” Delray Beach Mayor Cary Glickstein said. “I also appreciate HUD and DOJ officials for recognizing that this is a national problem. I’m pleased with the Joint Statement in that it recognizes zoning and land use are inherently local decisions best determined by local government.”
Congressman Ted Deutch (D-District 21) also applauded the Joint Statement. “I am pleased that the Department of Justice and the Department of Housing and Urban Development have listened to our cities, recovery residence industry members and other community stakeholders, and followed through to provide additional guidance that will help our cities uphold the Fair Housing Act as they implement their zoning and land use policies,” Deutch said.
The Joint Statement makes three key points:
• A local government can deny an accommodation request for a group home if granting it would impose an undue financial and administrative burden on local government or would fundamentally alter the municipality’s zoning scheme. Factors include the nature and extent of the burden, proximity of group homes to one and other, the cost of the requested accommodation, the financial resources of the local government and the benefits of the accommodation to the disabled individual.
• Licensing and other requirements for group homes for health and safety purposes may be permitted if they are not based on stereotypes, equally apply to all homes with a minimum number of unrelated residents and do not target homes based on the presence of individuals with a disability.
• The Fair Housing Act does not prevent state or local government from taking action in response to criminal activity, insurance fraud, Medicaid fraud, neglect or abuse of residents or other illegal conduct occurring at group homes.
Due to the opioid crisis, there has been significant proliferation in South Florida of group homes for recovering addicts that in some instances has interrupted the peace and enjoyment of residential neighborhoods. This month’s announcement will provide local governments with transparency on how to promote public health and safety, uphold the civil rights of individuals in recovery and maintain the residential character of neighborhoods, Frankel said.