Texas Department of Housing & Community Affairs - Building Homes and Strengthening Communities

Fair Housing for Elected Officials and Local Governments

The Fair Housing Act prohibits a broad range of practices that discriminate against individuals on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, familial status, and disability. The Act does not pre-empt local zoning laws; however, the Act applies to municipalities and other local government entities and prohibits them from making zoning or land use decisions or policies that exclude or discriminate against protected persons.

The Fair Housing Act makes it unlawful --

  • To utilize land use policies or actions that treat groups of persons with disabilities less favorably than groups of persons who are not disabled.
  • For example: A City creates an ordinance prohibiting housing for persons with disabilities or a specific type of disability, such as mental illness, from locating in a particular area, while allowing other groups of unrelated individuals to live together in that area.
  • To take action against, or deny a permit, for a home because of the disability of individuals who live or would live there.
  • For example: A local government entity denies a building permit for a home because it was intended to provide housing for persons with mental disabilities.
  • To refuse to make reasonable accommodations in land use and zoning policies and procedures where such accommodations may be necessary to afford persons or groups of persons with disabilities an equal opportunity to use and enjoy housing.

DOJ's Case Summaries (www.justice.gov) page includes several cases filed against City and County governments due to discriminatory zoning policies (see for example U.S. v. City of New Berlin, U.S. v. City of Fairview Heights, U.S. v. City of Lake Station, and other relevant examples).

To view Questions and Answers on the Fair Housing Act and Zoning, visit the Joint Statement of the DOJ and the HUD on Group Homes, Local Land Use, and the Fair Housing Act (PDF).

For additional information, see the following external websites. TDHCA is not responsible for the content and does not endorse any of the following websites:

View best practices below as provided in the State's Analysis of Impediments. To view HUD's Regulatory Barriers Checklist as referenced in the Analysis of Impediments, see Appendix A of HUD's Policy and Research Regulatory Barriers Report (PDF) (www.hud.gov) or visit HUD's Regulatory Barriers to Affordable Housing Publications page.

Best Practices for Land Use and Zoning

Best practices in land use and zoning regulations as provided in the State's Phase 2 Analysis of Impediments should include:

  • A definition of family that includes unrelated persons living together in residential settings
  • The inclusion of at least one zone district that allows for small lot single family dwellings
  • Reasonable lot width and size requirements of residential dwellings
  • The inclusion of zone districts or overlays that allow the construction of multifamily homes by right. Enough land should be included in such districts/overlays to allow diversity of housing stock through multifamily development
  • Allowance of manufactured homes meeting HUD safety standards in at least one residential district
  • Avoidance of minimum house or dwelling unit sizes
  • Clarification that group housing for protected classes is treated as residential uses and allowance of such homes in a broad range of zone districts
  • Avoidance of regulations that cast group homes as commercial use and/or require special permits or public disclosure that the homes will serve persons with disabilities
  • Incentives for diverse housing stock development such as density, reduced parking requirements, fee waivers or reductions, allowance for accessory dwelling units and public land donations or set asides for housing that accommodates low income and special needs populations

Local jurisdictions should review best practices for affirmatively furthering fair housing choice and consider their adoption. Jurisdictions receiving block grant funds directly should also examine the potential barriers caused by their land use laws and practices during the creation of their local AIs and as part of certifying to affirmatively further fair housing choice.

In some instances, zoning or land use practices may be facially neutral but have the effect of limiting the access of one or more protected classes to certain areas or neighborhoods. Land use practices should be reviewed with this in mind and exceptions or less restrictive practices that will assist in promoting diverse neighborhoods and communities should be considered.

How Can I Engage My Community?

Review or print TDHCA's brochure on Housing Options for Texas Communities (PDF) .

To find more data on needs in your area, access the Texas State Data Center (txsdc.utsa.edu) or download facts sheets or talking points from the National Low Income Housing Coalition Congressional District Housing Profiles page (nlihc.org). For a map of Federal assistance across the United States, review the Urban Institute's Federal Housing Assistance Map (www.urban.org).

For other TDHCA materials that can be distributed to the public, see the Resources topic on the Housing Professionals page.

For information specific to service enriched housing development, see TDHCA's Housing and Health Services Coordination Council (HHSCC) page.

Other Local Government and Elected Official Resources

See the North Texas Council of Governments fair housing brochure for North Central Texas elected officials (PDF). Visit the Texas Municipal League (www.tml.org) for a list of statewide events, training information, City and Elected Official materials, and the Texas City Officials Directory. For additional training opportunities, policy reports, and a map of regional councils see Texas Association of Regional Councils (www.txregionalcouncil.org).

To learn how to advise a constituent on how to file a fair housing complaint in the State of Texas, visit How To File a Complaint.

To find a TDHCA approved fair housing trainer, please visit Fair Housing Training. To request a free fair housing training from the Texas Workforce Commission, visit the TWC Training page (www.twc.state.tx.us).