An Analysis of Zoning and Other Problems Affecting the Establishment of Group Homes for the Mentally Disabled

HRD-83-14: Published: Aug 17, 1983. Publicly Released: Aug 22, 1983.

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In response to a congressional request, GAO provided information on the effects that zoning and other land-use policies and practices have on efforts to establish small group homes to help return the mentally disabled from institutions to the community.

GAO found that zoning and related land-use requirements cause problems, but are generally not the major obstacles to group home placement of mentally disabled persons in metropolitan residential areas. Inadequate funding, unsuitable locations and facilities, and certain other factors cause problems more frequently and hinder the development of group homes more often than zoning problems. Most group homes are located in stable, residential, middle class or working class neighborhoods with easy access to a variety of community services and public transportation. Overall, group homes do not adversely affect communities, and communities accept group homes more often than not. Eighteen percent of the group home sponsors said that they: (1) experienced great difficulty in establishing their facilities because of zoning, permit, licensing, or safety code requirements; (2) encountered delays; and (3) incurred added costs during efforts to meet these requirements. Another 10 percent of the sponsors reported that they had to close or relocate facilities because of restrictive zoning and related problems. GAO stated that the Federal Government can facilitate the establishment of group homes by working with State and local governments and private organizations to promote long-range planning activities for locating and funding group homes and easing administrative problems involved in establishing or operating group homes.

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