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How Christian Retirement Centers and Assisted Living Facilities Can Overcome Zoning Barriers

The percentage of Americans in search of senior housing alternatives continues to increase. Fortunately, many churches and faith communities are stepping up to meet the needs of the older generation by establishing faith-based retirement centers and assisted living facilities. They provide seniors with more than just a place to stay—they offer a religious community in which seniors can find fellowship and spiritual development.

Unfortunately, the demand for faith-based senior housing options continues to outpace their development, which is often slowed by State regulations and licensing requirements. Even when State requirements are met, local zoning and land use regulations can prevent them from ever breaking ground.

While some communities have updated their zoning and land use regulations to better accommodate the housing and religious community needs of the older generation, many have done nothing. In some cases, outdated or overly restrictive zoning ordinances are the primary barrier to the development of faith-based retirement centers and assisted living facilities. Developers can struggle to obtain the zoning approvals they need and can face opposition from zoning officials and others in the community.

Even though some have successfully challenged zoning and land use denials under a federal law called the Fair Housing Amendments Act of 1988, another federal law—the Religious Land Use & Institutionalized Persons Act (“RLUIPA”)—may  provide even greater protection. RLUIPA is a federal statute that Congress enacted in 2000 to protect religious institutions from burdensome or discriminatory land use regulations or zoning restrictions.

At Dalton & Tomich, we have helped a wide variety of religious institutions across the country understand and assert their rights under RLUIPA. From homeless shelters to pregnancy care centers, we have used RLUIPA to help our clients overcome zoning barriers and secure the necessary land use approvals—both in and out of court. RLUIPA helps level the playing field for a wide variety of religious institutions.

If you would like to learn more about how RLUIPA can be used to help develop a Christian retirement center or assisted living facility in your community, please do not hesitate to give us a call.

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