A few weeks ago, my office received numerous phone calls and emails from residents in my district who were concerned about the possibility of a sober living facility moving into their neighborhood. Being their representative, I heard all of their concerns, which ranged from an increasing crime rate to a lowering of property value of their homes. I understand their concerns and tried to find a way to address them without taking away the opportunity for recovering addicts to get better in a safe environment.
The Fair Housing Act, as amended in 1988, prohibits housing discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, disability, familial status and national origin. I am in favor of this law and believe that it rightfully protects the rights of all citizens when trying to buy or rent a home. The problem that I have is that when this bill was passed in 1988, Congress did not see how some (not all) of these homes could negatively affect the communities in which they are located. I am trying to pass a bill that would not take these homes out of our neighborhoods altogether but would limit the amount of non-family members legally able to live in a dwelling. My concern with these homes is that they change the makeup of a neighborhood by trying to fit too many individuals into one dwelling.
As much as I believe that disabled individuals who need these facilities have a right to safe housing, I also believe that the homeowners have the right not to have to live next to a house where 20 individuals live, when these individuals are coming and going and having guests come and go throughout the day and night. A house with this may people in it, whether it houses disabled individuals or not, would change the makeup of any neighborhood. Limiting the number of individuals allowed to live in any dwelling in a residential area is reasonable and is a commonsense solution to the problem without endangering the rights of disabled individuals who need a safe place to recover.
I have received a few emails, phone calls and one article in the Capital Gazette claiming that I am out of touch and that I should care more about helping those in need. I reject the idea that I cannot protect the rights and property of those in residential areas who are concerned about these group homes while not infringing on the rights of disabled adults who are seeking treatment. I believe that the county can come to a commonsense solution to make sure that these houses are in the appropriate areas and are caring for the appropriate amount of people. It is possible for these houses to be in residential districts if the proper regulations are placed on them so they do not change the entire dynamic of a neighborhood.
I look forward to working with Governor Larry Hogan and with County Executive Steve Schuh to try to end addiction from heroin and other drugs in our state and county, but I also believe there should be some commonsense regulations on group homes and other recovery facilities that are placed in residential areas.