City of Edmonds v. Oxford House, Inc., 514 U.S. 725, 13 (1995)

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

Opinion of the Court

Family living, not living space per occupant, is what ECDC 21.30.010 describes. Defining family primarily by biological and legal relationships, the provision also accommodates another group association: Five or fewer unrelated people are allowed to live together as though they were family. This accommodation is the peg on which Edmonds rests its plea for 3607(b)(1) exemption. Had the City defined a family solely by biological and legal links, 3607(b)(1) would not have been the ground on which Edmonds staked its case. See Tr. of Oral Arg. 11-12, 16. It is curious reasoning indeed that converts a family values preserver into a maximum occupancy restriction once a town adds to a related persons prescription "and also two unrelated persons." 11

Edmonds additionally contends that subjecting single-family zoning to FHA scrutiny will "overturn Euclidian zoning" and "destroy the effectiveness and purpose of single-family zoning." Brief for Petitioner 11, 25. This contention both ignores the limited scope of the issue before us and exaggerates the force of the FHA's antidiscrimination provisions. We address only whether Edmonds' family composition rule qualifies for 3607(b)(1) exemption. Moreover, the FHA antidiscrimination provisions, when applicable, require only "reasonable" accommodations to afford persons with handicaps "equal opportunity to use and enjoy" housing. 3604(f)(1)(A) and (f)(3)(B).

11 This curious reasoning drives the dissent. If Edmonds allowed only related persons (whatever their number) to dwell in a house in a single-family zone, then the dissent, it appears, would agree that the 3607(b)(1) exemption is unavailable. But so long as the City introduces a specific number—any number (two will do)—the City can insulate its single-family zone entirely from FHA coverage. The exception-takes-the-rule reading the dissent advances is hardly the "generous construction" warranted for antidiscrimination prescriptions. See Trafficante v. Metropolitan Life Ins. Co., 409 U. S. 205, 212 (1972).


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