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Group Homes and Sober Living Facilities

Group Homes and Sober Living Facilities serve a protected class of people under the Federal Fair Housing Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act. They are allowed in all residential zone districts. There is no action required by the City Council.

The trend of group homes in residential neighborhoods is growing locally and across the country. Group homes began appearing in greater numbers in the 1970's as federal and state governments moved to deinstitutionalize people with disabilities and encourage their placement in residential settings. Today, there are a number of such homes throughout Arvada neighborhoods.

Frequently Asked Questions:

What is a Group Home?

Generally, the term Group Home refers to housing occupied by a group of unrelated persons with disabilities that are a protected class under the  Federal Fair Housing Act (FFHA) and the  Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Persons with disabilities include those with a condition that substantially limits major life activities, such as blindness, hearing and mobility impairment, developmental disabilities and mental illness. These facilities provide housing, personal care and rehabilitation services, affording individuals with disabilities the same right to use and enjoy a home as individuals without disabilities.

Why are Group Homes allowed in Arvada neighborhoods?

The City is legally obligated under state and federal law to provide "reasonable accommodations" to any protected class. The FFHA and the ADA prohibit discrimination against individuals with disabilities and prohibits local governments from enacting zoning or land use decisions that discriminate against protected persons. The Colorado legislature declared that group living (for not more than eight persons) is a residential use and a "matter of statewide concern." State law requires local governments with zoning codes to recognize group homes as a residential land use and to include them in normal residential surroundings, including single-family residential units; therefore, a Group Home with eight or fewer residents is an allowed use in all Residential Zone Districts in Arvada

What is a Sober Living Facility? 

A Sober Living Facility (sometimes referred to as “sober home” or “recovery residence”) is a housing facility that helps those recovering from drug and/or alcohol addiction (diagnosed as “substance use disorders”) transition back into the community after undergoing intensive inpatient treatment services. These homes promote independent living and the development of life skills and provide structured activities and recovery support services to those recovering from substance use disorders. The homes are free from alcohol and nonprescription or illicit drugs. Residents are required to go through rehabilitation prior to living in the home and continue to undergo treatment as a condition of living in the home. The number of residents living in each home varies, as do additional in-house rules.

Why are Sober Living Facilities allowed in Arvada neighborhoods?

Under federal law, individuals recovering from drug and/or alcohol addiction are considered to have a disability, as drug addiction and alcoholism are physical impairments that can substantially limit major life activities. Individuals with disabilities are a federally protected class of people; protected by both the FFHA and the ADA. Under these federal laws, cities are obligated to provide individuals with disabilities “reasonable accommodations” upon request in order to provide equal housing opportunities.

How are Sober Living Facilities regulated?

 House Bill 19-1009, which went into effect in 2019, introduces new legislation that provides oversight for Sober Living Facilities. After January 1, 2020, all Sober Living Facilities will have to obtain certification from the  Colorado Office of Behavioral Health in the Department of Human Services, unless the facility is chartered by Oxford House, or has operated as a recovery residence in Colorado for 30 or more years. The certification requirements will be established by the Colorado Office of Behavioral Health.

Sober Living Facilities, like all other property in the City, must also comply with the City’s building, land use, and criminal codes, and any other applicable laws. The City will enforce against any violations of these laws.

What is "reasonable accommodation?"

The FFHA and the ADA prohibit discrimination by requiring local governments to make "reasonable accommodations" in their rules, policies, practices or services when necessary to give people with disabilities equal housing opportunities. Courts have consistently ruled that this requirement applies to zoning and other land use regulations.

In the context of Sober Living Facilities that house individuals with disabilities, in order to comply with federal law, cities must provide these residents with a reasonable accommodation upon request, which is generally done in the form of an adjustment to zoning regulations. The Arvada Land Development Code authorizes the Arvada Community Development Director to modify the limits on the number of non-related occupants allowed in a home, such as a Sober Living Facility. Allowing more occupants to reside in the home provides a reasonable accommodation for individuals recovering from drug addiction and/or alcoholism. This ensures that the City is in compliance with federal regulations.

Do Group Homes or Sober Living Facilities require rezoning?

No, group homes and sober living facilities are allowed in all residential zone districts.  There is no action required by the City Council.