Advocacy Alert: California Department of Housing and Community Development Seeks Repeal of Sober Living Ordinances

May 13, 2021


On May 4, 2021, the California Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) issued technical assistance, followed by a Notice of Violation, Ordinance No. 2020-16 (Group Homes, including Sober Living Homes), to the City of Encinitas. The ten-page Notice of Violation, which threatens multi-millions of dollars in funding to the city, was sent on March 25 and clearly states that the city’s “sober living” ordinance is contrary to both state and federal law:

“The California Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) has reviewed the City of Encinitas’ Ordinance No. 2020-16 under its authority pursuant to Government Code section 65585, which extends to statutory prohibitions on discrimination in land use (Gov. Code, § 65008). HCD must notify the City and may notify the Office of the Attorney General when a city takes actions that are in violation of Government Code section 65008. (Gov. Code, § 65585, subd. (j).)”

The California Consortium of Addiction Programs and Professionals (CCAPP), as well as multiple individual civil rights attorneys, have worked for more than five years to repeal these discriminatory ordinances that have multiplied throughout Southern California counties and cities.

“This is a deathblow to these discriminatory housing practices,” said CCAPP President and CEO Pete Nielsen.

“We would like to thank all who worked to achieve this result and give particular gratitude to Governor Gavin Newsom who approved the Administration’s response to enforcing the laws that protect people in early recovery from housing discrimination,” said Nielsen.

Although Encinitas is the first city to receive a notice of violation, other cities are beginning to receive technical assistance regarding the need to repeal their ordinances. Encinitas has responded that it will repeal its ordinance within 90 days of the notice so as to regain compliance for its housing element.

Recovery advocates from throughout California see this enforcement action as a sign that stigmatizing people in recovery is unacceptable.

“This is a tremendous victory for persons in recovery. Housing is a basic need, and discriminatory ordinances have threatened persons in recovery the ability to live together; we are thankful for the support of our Governor.” – California Coalition of Addiction Recovery Advocates (CCARA) Chair and Addiction Recovery Communities of California (ARCC) Chair, Devon Wayt.

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