City of Edmonds v. Oxford House, Inc., 514 U.S. 725, 10 (1995)

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734

CITY OF EDMONDS v. OXFORD HOUSE, INC.

Opinion of the Court

tained in East Cleveland's housing ordinance. East Cleveland's ordinance "select[ed] certain categories of relatives who may live together and declare[d] that others may not"; in particular, East Cleveland's definition of "family" made "a crime of a grandmother's choice to live with her grandson." Id., at 498-499 (plurality opinion). In response to East Cleveland's argument that its aim was to prevent overcrowded dwellings, streets, and schools, we observed that the municipality's restrictive definition of family served the asserted, and undeniably legitimate, goals "marginally, at best." Id., at 500 (footnote omitted). Another East Cleveland ordinance, we noted, "specifically addressed . . . the problem of overcrowding"; that ordinance tied "the maximum permissible occupancy of a dwelling to the habitable floor area." Id., at 500, n. 7; accord, id., at 520, n. 16 (Stevens, J., concurring in judgment). Justice Stewart, in dissent, also distinguished restrictions designed to "preserv[e] the character of a residential area," from prescription of "a minimum habitable floor area per person," id., at 539, n. 9, in the interest of community health and safety.7

Section 3607(b)(1)'s language—"restrictions regarding the maximum number of occupants permitted to occupy a dwelling"—surely encompasses maximum occupancy restrictions.8

7 Other courts and commentators have similarly differentiated between land-use restrictions and maximum occupancy restrictions. See, e. g., State v. Baker, 81 N. J. 99, 110, 405 A. 2d 368, 373 (1979); 7A E. McQuillin, The Law of Municipal Corporations 24.504 (3d ed. 1989); Abbott, Housing Policy, Housing Codes and Tenant Remedies: An Integration, 56 B. U. L. Rev. 1, 41 (1976).

8 The plain import of the statutory language is reinforced by the House Committee Report, which observes: "A number of jurisdictions limit the number of occupants per unit based on a minimum number of square feet in the unit or the sleeping areas of the unit. Reasonable limitations by governments would be allowed to continue, as long as they were applied to all occupants, and did not operate to discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, handicap or familial status." H. R. Rep. No. 100-711, p. 31 (1988).

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