Nimby Assessment

Spacing Restrictions Case Study

Some state and local governments have laws that prohibit the clustering of supportive housing, group homes, and other housing and services for persons with disabilities. The justification offered for these laws is that minimum spacing requirements (i.e., a specified distance separating group homes or supportive housing locations) better promotes integration of such housing into the community. On the other hand, such requirements have the effect of limiting the total number of housing units that can be built, thereby diminishing housing opportunities for people who have been homeless or who have disabilities.

While spacing requirements can obstruct project development, housing and service providers can overcome such barriers through a number of legal and other strategies.

Project Background

Since 1990, Recovery in the Community (RC) has served formerly homeless people with dual diagnoses of mental illness and substance abuse in a licensed, non residential treatment center. Recently, RC has determined that the effectiveness of its treatment programs will be enhanced if the organization were to provide residential settings.

RC has an option to purchase a six-bedroom house in a single-family neighborhood. Financing, which will come through the state department of mental health, is contingent on finding a property that has all of the appropriate zoning approvals. The project will house five men and a resident house manager, and each resident will have his own bedroom. While RC will provide services and supports designed to help residents go back to work or to school, RC will not provide medical care on site. From clinical and programmatic perspectives, residents will not need 24-hour supervision.

Project Challenge

The town prohibits the operation of "group homes" within 2,500 feet of another such provider. The home on which RC has the option is located 1,500 feet west of a group home. After meeting with RC, town officials have determined that RC will be operating a "group home," that it cannot proceed "by right" at the proposed location, and that RC must secure a special use permit or move elsewhere.

Items to Consider

In order to assess the conditions facing RC, and to properly guide its decisions about how to proceed, it is essential to consider the following factors:

Click on each of the factors above to learn more.

To select the course of action commensurate with your organization's tolerance for risk, click on the link below:


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