Municipal Regulation of Group Homes and Sober Living Arrangements

Navigating Complex Legal and Policy Issues When Zoning for Community Residences for People With Disabilities

Recording of a 90-minute CLE webinar with Q&A

Conducted on Wednesday, April 26, 2017
Recorded event now available

This CLE webinar will provide guidance to municipal attorneys for grappling with the complex legal and policy challenges of regulating community residences for people with disabilities under the Fair Housing Act (FHA) and Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA), as well as the impact of statewide zoning statutes. The panel will discuss sound planning and zoning practices within the context of these statutes and touch upon the November 2016 Joint Statement by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and Department of Justice (DOJ) on the application of the FHA to local land use practices and zoning laws for community residences for people with disabilities.


Regulating community residences for people with disabilities is one of the most challenging issues municipalities confront, fraught with local politics conflicting with federal and state laws. Despite decades of studies consistently finding that community residences have no effect on property values or neighborhood safety, potential neighbors still come out in droves to oppose them.

Countless cities and counties continue to violate the FHA and state zoning statutes with excessive zoning restrictions. Even some state statutes fail to fully comply with the FHA. The result has been protracted and costly litigation. A growing amount of the litigation surrounds municipalities adopting zoning provisions or other policies that intentionally or unintentionally discriminate against group homes for people recovering from drug or alcohol addiction.

The Joint Statement that HUD and the DOJ issued in November 2016 provides some guidance to cities to regulate community residences in a manner that ensures the safety of communities while protecting the rights of group home residents to be protected from discrimination as required by the FHA.

Counsel to local governments must stay abreast of evolving trends regarding regulating community residences and develop effective strategies to address the legal and policy issues presented.

Listen as our authoritative panel analyzes the legal implications of zoning and local licensing regulations for community residences for people with disabilities and outlines best practices in this area from a legal and policy perspective.


  1. Community residences defined and policy considerations for regulating community residences for people with disabilities
  2. Legal and regulatory framework: applicable federal and state statutes
  3. The fact-specific nature of the oft-confusing case law
  4. Best zoning (and local licensing) practices for regulating community residences for people with disabilities


The panel will review these and other key issues:

  • What community residences for people with disabilities are, their purposes, how they function, and why case law overwhelmingly found them to be residential uses well before disabilities were added to the Fair Housing Act’s coverage in 1988
  • Legal and policy issues counsel to local governments must consider in determining whether an ordinance regulating community residences is lawful
  • The maximum extent to which local governments may restrict community residences for people with disabilities
  • Best practices for municipal attorneys for drafting zoning restrictions on community residences for people with disabilities



Daniel Lauber, AICP
Law Office of Daniel Lauber, River Forest, Ill.

Fair housing/zoning attorney and city planner Daniel Lauber, AICP has been reforming zoning for community residences for people with disabilities. He first proffered the concept of spacing distances in 1974, wrote the model group home zoning for the ABA and American Planning Association, has written zoning code amendments and supportive studies for numerous cities to bring them into compliance with the Fair Housing Act, guided countless group home operators through the zoning process, and co-authored pioneering local licensing ordinances. As an expert witness for the Department of Justice and others, he has helped shape the scope of group home zoning law. Mr. Lauber is a past President of the American Planning Association and American Institute of Certified Planners.

Henry C. Luthin, First Assistant Corporation Counsel
City of Boston, Boston

Mr. Luthin has oversight of the Government Services section of the Boston Law Department. He was previously General Counsel at the Boston Water and Sewer Commission. Mr. Luthin is President of the Massachusetts Municipal Lawyers Association and has lectured on municipal law matters at seminars and conferences sponsored by the MMLA and the International Municipal Lawyers Association.


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