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Clarify the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Fair Housing Act (FHA) to allow states and local governments to enact reasonable regulations

Sober homes, also known as sober living homes or recovery residences are places where multiple unrelated individuals in drug recovery live together in pursuit of sobriety.  There is no medical treatment inside these residences.  They are just a communal living space where residents usually attend outpatient rehab at a nearby facility.  The best of these homes are the ones you never even notice are amongst you.  The worst degenerate into flophouses, where unscrupulous landlords exploit people with substance use disorder for money or sex, and encourage relapse over recovery.

The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) requires state and local governments, including Homeowner Associations (HOAs), to provide “reasonable accommodations” to individuals with disabilities, including recovering addicts who are not currently using drugs. In recent years, the cities of Newport Beach, California and Boca Raton, Florida had to pay millions of dollars to sober home owners after city ordinances improperly regulated them in violation of the ADA.

Thus, the well-appointed recovery residence that’s owned by a humanitarian to help recovering addicts transition back into society is protected by the ADA. But so is the con artist’s co-ed dorm that stuffs nine addicts into three bedrooms without any standards or supervision, while receiving kickbacks from corrupt treatment providers.

That’s why Congress should urge the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to issue a new Joint Statement on the ADA and the Fair Housing Act (FHA) to allow local governments to uphold national standards and best practices in sober homes for the protection of residents in recovery.  The DOJ and HUD issued such a clarification back in November 2016, but their joint statement involved mostly zoning issues and only added to the confusion.


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