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Soon after deciding Mc Minn, the Court of Appeals considered whether a municipality can restrict the number of unrelated persons living together as the functional equivalent of a natural family, while allowing an unlimited number of related persons to reside together. The zoning law did not place a similar number limit on the number of persons related by blood, marriage or adoption. Also, in 1993, a federal district court in the case of , 819 F. Under the Fair Housing Act, it is unlawful for government to discriminate in the sale, rental or use of housing on the basis of handicap and individuals recovering from drug or alcohol addiction are considered handicapped under the Act. S.2d 769 (1992), the Court of Appeals struck down the city's definition of "boarding house" as not reasonably related to achieving the ordinance's legitimate purposes of reducing parking and traffic problems and controlling population density.
The Court of Appeals held that the family definition violated the State due process clause because it restricted the size of a functionally equivalent family of unrelated persons but not the size of a traditional family. Supreme Court’s ruling in , (supra), it appears that, for zoning purposes, a municipality may not restrict the number of related or unrelated persons who constitute a family. S.2d 784 (1989), the Court of Appeals ruled that two homosexual men living together in a spousal-like arrangement could constitute a "family" within the context of the non-eviction provisions of the New York City Rent and Eviction regulations. In the court’s view, applying the town's zoning definition of "family" to evict the Oxford House residents due to the size or transient nature of the group living arrangement would discriminate against them because of their handicap. The definition of "boarding house" was so broad it would have prevented any type of family living in a rented house. Some municipalities have attempted to define "family" to comply with court decisions by providing for discretionary review of groups of unrelated persons greater than a specified number to ensure that they are the functional equivalent of a family.
NEW YORK STATE UNIFORM FIRE PREVENTION AND BUILDING CODE Many local officials and citizens are concerned with the administration and enforcement of zoning and building laws. In many municipalities, the building inspector may wear several “hats” and may be charged with enforcing zoning regulations, State and local building codes and related regulations.
In larger municipalities, the various enforcement tasks may be divided among the building inspector, the zoning enforcement officer and perhaps, a number of other officers or employees.
However, even the inclusion of provision for unrelated persons in the zoning definition of family does not guarantee that it will survive a constitutional challenge. S.2d 128 (1985) found fault with the alternative definition of a "family" as being "[a]ny two (2) persons not related..of whom are sixty-two (62) years of age or over." In a unanimous decision, the Court of Appeals invalidated the definition: "Manifestly, restricting occupancy of single-family housing based generally on the biological or legal relationships between its inhabitants bears no reasonable relationship to the goals of reducing parking and traffic problems, controlling population density and preventing noise and disturbance (citations omitted).
This task is one which may involve the drawing of some fine legal distinctions. In Baer, the town of Brookhaven charged five (5) unrelated elderly women residing together in a house located in a single family residential zone with violating the town's zoning law, which provided that not more than 4 unrelated persons living and cooking together as a single housekeeping unit could constitute a family. Oxford House accommodated between 5 and 8 transient residents.
ZONING Any successful zoning scheme which purports to create and attain a single-family zoning district must contain a definition of family. This line of family definition cases has followed a very traditional path of analysis.
Courts have carefully looked for some reasonable relationship between the zoning regulation and the goals sought to be achieved by the regulation.
The factors which must be considered by the Zoning Administrator are whether the group: , 201 A. For those municipalities which have enacted or are considering adopting definitions of family similar to that of the City of Poughkeepsie, this case lends constitutional support to those efforts. Another technique is to correlate the number of occupants to the size of the structure occupied (e.g., by setting a maximum number of persons for a specified floor area, or requiring a given floor area per resident). Their purpose is to protect health and safety by preventing overcrowding.
The advantage of such an approach is that it relates population density to house size and does not address the factors of permanence, stability, non-transience, and outward appearance of a family which all the decisions use. These uniform rules are exempt from the provisions of the Fair Housing Act.
DEFINITION OF "FAMILY" IN ZONING LAW AND BUILDING CODES An appropriate definition of "family" is basic to density and use prescriptions of zoning laws and to the applicability of building code laws.