Family zoning is a restriction on what types of dwellings may be built in a certain zone.  Local governments may create family zones in which only single family dwellings may be built.  This prevents apartments, duplexes, or town homes from being built.  It also prevents homeowners from dividing their homes into smaller apartments or half-homes.  

In the zoning ordinance, a local government defines what constitutes a single "family".  Local governments may have different definitions of what constitutes a family.  However, the courts have placed limits on how narrowly the term can be defined.  For example, the Supreme Court upheld a definition of family that was limited to two unrelated persons while they held unconstitutional a definition of family that was so narrow that it excluded certain blood relatives.

Why Would a Local Government Create Family Zones?

A local government may choose to create a family zone for many reasons including:

  • Reduce traffic
  • Reduce noise
  • Alleviate parking problems
  • Control population
  • Promote stable and long term residence
  • Prevent other problems caused by group living

Are Family Zoning Ordinances Legal?

The Supreme Court has held that family zoning ordinances are legal.  Because the goals of family zoning are rationally related to public safety, health, and welfare, local governments have the authority to create them.  Further, the Court views these ordinances as forms of social and economic regulation that are reserved for State and local governments by the U.S. Constitution.

Should I Consult an Attorney About My Family Zoning Issue?

An experienced property attorney can help you deal with any existing or new family zoning issue.  Your attorney would be able to advise you on how a new or purposed family zoning ordinance may affect you as a current or future landowner, developer, landlord, or tenant.  Additionally, your attorney would be able to help you interpret a zoning ordinance that affects you.