December 17, 2017

Land-Use Discrimination

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California Disability and Land-Use Project

(Housing Rights, Inc. is proud to have sponsored the HUD funded California Disability and Land-Use Project. Through this Project we and our partners produced and collected a great deal of information. We are happy to share much of that information with you through this web page.)

The California disability and Land-Use Project was a 23 month project funded by HUD through the Fair Housing Initiative Program. This Project continued a comprehensive campaign to end discrimination in land-use and zoning practices, in particular, as they relate to housing for people with disabilities. This campaign was begun two years earlier by the Fair Housing Congress of Southern California and Housing Rights, Inc. in two separate projects. The two projects wre combined to create this Project, the sponsors are:

Housing Rights, Inc.
Mental Health Advocacy Services, Inc.
Protection and Advocacy

In the early history of zoning in the United States, the concept was to create separate zones for residential, commercial, and manufacturing uses. The manufacturing uses of that era were not something that you would want next door to your house. The legal underpinning of zoning was the use of the city’s police power to protect the health, safety and general welfare of its citizens.

Over the years, this health, safety and general welfare basis of zoning was expanded to include other land use issues, such as aesthetics. In recent years zoning has crossed the line from regulating land uses to restricting where certain groups of people can live. Many people, who know it is unlawful to discriminate on the basis of race, ethnicity or religion, find nothing wrong in using zoning to prevent persons with disabilities from living in their neighborhood.

Analysis of some of the zoning devices that have been used shows that criteria such as (1) number of persons permitted to occupy a dwelling, (2) permitted accessory uses, and (3) zoning requirement are applied differently based on characteristics of people. Because of the special needs and preferences of many persons with disabilities, these characteristic-based regulations effectively limit where and how they can live.

The California Disability and Land-Use Project was designed to assist local groups struggling with zoning and land-use barriers created by local government.

You may call us with your questions, comments and concerns. In addition to working with local groups and jurisdictions to enforce fair housing laws, we are also interested in developing new tools to evaluate zoning and land-use practices and new methods for resolving community conflict over the establishment of housing for persons with disabilities. (Please visit the Building Better Neighborhood NEighborhood website for a comprehensive collection of information and contacts on this subject:

(“The work that provided the basis for this Project was supported by funding under a grant with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The substance and findings of the work are dedicated to the public. The author and publisher are solely responsible for the accuracy of the statements and interpretations contained in this publication. Such interpretations do not necessarily reflect the views of the Government. FHIP Grant # FH700G9634”)