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Phoenix schedules vote on regulating sober-living homes

November 30, 2017

PHOENIX (AP) — The Phoenix City Council will vote in March on an ordinance requiring sober-living homes to obtain a license from the city and abide by certain standards.

The council approved the schedule Wednesday after months of pressure from community groups for the city to take regulatory action on nuisance group homes.

As sober-living homes have popped up across the city with some operating in single-family dwellings in neighborhoods, the community groups say they want the city to have more control. City residents formed Take Action Phoenix to urge officials to act.

People typically reside in sober-living homes after attending a drug treatment program and before returning to independent living. These homes can be critical for long-term recovery, Jeff Taylor of the Arizona Recovery Housing Association told The Arizona Republic.

The homes have little government oversight and can house anywhere from two to 10 people. While most are well-managed, Taylor said the ones that aren’t can put its residents and neighbors at risk.

During the summer, the city formed a committee for concerned residents and professionals to look into what the city could do. It recommended an ordinance stipulating licensing procedures and standards.

The ordinance is still being drafted, but the possible standards include mandatory random drug and alcohol testing, quarterly safety assessments and required recovery program attendance.

The potential for legal trouble has slowed the city from taking action as city officials have voiced concerns that an ordinance could conflict with the federal Fair Housing Act.

“There’s still this ongoing fear that we might end up in a lawsuit,” Phoenix City Councilwoman Debra Stark said. “When the federal government sues it can become very expensive.”

If the city adopts rules that are geared toward promoting the health and safety of the home residents, Taylor said the city should be fine.

“There’s a right way to do this and I think the city is doing it the right way,” Taylor said. “We’re getting there.”

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