Over one year ago, a longstanding South Florida issue of housing dedicated to people in recovery from addictive behaviors reared its head on the barrier island in Delray Beach. In this instance, a respected provider of recovery programs purchased two near-oceanfront luxury homes in quiet single family neighborhood, removing the properties from local tax rolls, and potentially disrupting the quality of life for nearby residents. These two recovery residences represented the tip on an iceberg. It is estimated that Delray Beach was home to approximately 5000 recovering addicts, occupying several hundred identifiable recovery homes. In almost all instances, the so-called "Sober Houses" were operating in violation of local zoning regulations, but the transient occupants are protected by the Americans With Disabilities Act. The City felt that its hands were tied.
The Coalition brought together literally dozens of Home Owner Associations to learn the facts, and provide strong support for responsible government action to deal with the problem at all levels. The Coalition acted as an intermediary between the City, citizens, and the Foundation who had purchased the two barrier island homes. Existing codes were modified to control the number of unrelated adults permitted to occupy a single residence, and the number of times that rooms could be "turned" in a given year. The City was sued for its actions, but a settlement was rapidly concluded. New legislation has been proposed at the state level, offering greater protections for both patients in recovery, and for residents living near a recovery residence. Changes in Federal rules will take longer to accomplish.
The sanctity of residential neighborhoods in coastal communities is the driving principle of Coalition involvement in the transient housing issue. Every jurisdiction on the barrier island has fair and equitable zoning codes to allow for rentals of residential properties. The Coalition will remain vigilant to assure that the intent of these codes cannot be circumvented.
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