City of Edmonds v. Oxford House, Inc., 514 U.S. 725, 11 (1995)

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Cite as: 514 U. S. 725 (1995)

Opinion of the Court

But the formulation does not fit family composition rules typically tied to land-use restrictions. In sum, rules that cap the total number of occupants in order to prevent overcrowding of a dwelling "plainly and unmistakably," see A. H. Phillips, Inc. v. Walling, 324 U. S. 490, 493 (1945), fall within 3607(b)(1)'s absolute exemption from the FHA's governance; rules designed to preserve the family character of a neighborhood, fastening on the composition of households rather than on the total number of occupants living quarters can contain, do not.9

B

Turning specifically to the City's Community Development Code, we note that the provisions Edmonds invoked against Oxford House, ECDC 16.20.010 and 21.30.010, are classic examples of a use restriction and complementing family composition rule. These provisions do not cap the number of people who may live in a dwelling. In plain terms, they di-9 Tellingly, Congress added the 3607(b)(1) exemption for maximum occupancy restrictions at the same time it enlarged the FHA to include a ban on discrimination based on "familial status." See supra, at 728, n. 1. The provision making it illegal to discriminate in housing against families with children under the age of 18 prompted fears that landlords would be forced to allow large families to crowd into small housing units. See, e. g., Fair Housing Amendments Act of 1987: Hearings on H. R. 1158 before the Subcommittee on Civil and Constitutional Rights of the House Committee on the Judiciary, 100th Cong., 1st Sess., 656 (1987) (remarks of Rep. Edwards) (questioning whether a landlord must allow a family with 10 children to live in a two-bedroom apartment). Section 3607(b)(1) makes it plain that, pursuant to local prescriptions on maximum occupancy, landlords legitimately may refuse to stuff large families into small quarters. Congress further assured in 3607(b)(1) that retirement communities would be exempt from the proscription of discrimination against families with minor children. In the sentence immediately following the maximum occupancy provision, 3607(b)(1) states: "Nor does any provision in this subchapter regarding familial status apply with respect to housing for older persons."

735

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