The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the Justice Department (DOJ) recently released updated federal Fair Housing Act (FHA) guidance clarifying compliance in regards to land use and zoning.
“Zoning and land use are inherently local decisions,” said HUD Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity Gustavo Velasquez, in a statement. “This updated guidance will help give localities and the American people a clearer line of what could constitute housing discrimination under the federal Fair Housing Act. Cities will also have more resources to understand their fair housing rights and responsibilities in the course of making decisions related to various types of housing, including group homes for residents with disabilities.”
The updated guidance includes real estate-related information, with answers to:
- How does the Fair Housing Act apply to state and local land use and zoning? When does a land use or zoning practice constitute intentional discrimination in violation of the Fair Housing Act?
- Can state and local land use and zoning laws or practices violate the Fair Housing Act if the state or locality did not intend to discriminate against persons on a prohibited basis? Does a state or local government violate the Fair Housing Act if it considers the fears or prejudices of community members when enacting or applying its land use laws respecting housing?
- What is a group home within the meaning of the Fair Housing Act? In what ways does the Fair Housing Act apply to group homes? Can a state or local government impose health and safety regulations on group home operators? Can a state or local government impose spacing requirements on the location of group homes for persons with disabilities?
“The Fair Housing Act helps protect open, free and integrated communities,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights division, in a statement. “Government officials, housing providers and the general public need to understand how land use and zoning decisions can create barriers to equal housing opportunity. We hope this guidance will help communities make these decisions free from discrimination.”