Three Powerful Statutes

April 25, 2016

In my analysis of federal civil rights remedies for land use denials, I will be discussing three statutes.  Those statutes are the Federal Fair Housing Amendments Act of 1988[1] (an amendment of the Fair Housing Act, Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act of 1968), The Americans With Disabilities Act (“ADA”)[2] and The Rehabilitation Act.[3]  All of these enactments are intended to protect persons with disabilities and all three apply to local Governments and their land use boards in the application of land use regulations.[4]

In enacting the Fair Housing Amendments Act, a committee of the House of Representatives in part expressed the congressional intent as follows:

“The Committee intends that the prohibition against discrimination against those with handicaps apply to zoning decisions and practices.  The Act is intended to prohibit the application of special requirements through land use regulations, restrictive covenants, and conditional or special use permits that have the effect of limiting the ability of such individuals to live in the residence of their choice in the community.” (Emphasis mine.)

In speaking of the ways that otherwise neutral land use rules and regulations can be employed to discriminate, the Committee went on to state as follows:

“Such discrimination often results from false or overprotective assumptions about the needs of handicapped people, as well as unfounded fears of difficulties about the problems that their tenancies may pose.  These and similar practices would be prohibited.”[5]

In succeeding posts I will discuss how these statutes addressed such discrimination, and how they have been applied by the courts when developers provide housing and services to the disabled in an “institutional” setting, in residential zones.

Thanks, Steve


[1] 42 U.S.C.A. § 3601, et seq.

[2] 42 U.S.C.A. § 12132, et seq.

[3] 29 U.S.C.A. § 701, et seq.

[4] Assisted Living Assocs. L.L.C. v. Moorestown Twp., 996 F. Supp. 409, 1998 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 3480 (D.N.J. 1998); Saunders v. Horn, 960 F. Supp. 893 (E.D. Pa. 1997).

[5] H.R. Rep. No. 100-711, at 25, 1988 U.S.C.C.A.N. at 2185.