Whereas the recovery support world tends to view recovery residences as housing, the housing world views recovery residences as recovery support. Truthfully, it is both.
From a housing perspective, recovery residences have unique characteristics. Compared to other housing, recovery residences:
- They are designed for a specific population, which at a minimum are persons with substance use issues who are seeking recovery and who choose to live in recovery housing to ameliorate their disability.
- Use eligibility requirements such as:
- Have a substance use or other addictive disorder(s)
- Have recovery goals that are in alignment with the household
- Agree to “house rules,” e.g., abstinence, social covenants, activities…
- Have policies, procedures, and protocols to ensure a safe, sober living environment
- Have shared living environments, which are seen as a beneficial feature
- Are centered on peer support and promote family-like environments
- Link residents to supports and services that promote recovery from substance use issues.
Transitional vs. Permanent
In December 2015, HUD published a brief on recovery housing, calling it a vital housing choice for persons with substance use issues, which can be operated as either:
- “Transitional housing,” meaning a resident’s length of stay is programmatically limited. The limit maybe 3 months or 2 years, but regardless, the inherent characteristic of “transitional housing” is that a resident cannot choose to stay longer.
- “Permanent housing,” meaning a resident determines their length of stay as long as they meet the terms of their resident agreement and are in good standing.
Whether a recovery residence is classified as transitional vs. permanent can have policy implications, such as funding eligibility and restrictions.
Housing vs. Programming
Some wishfully assume that the programmatically found in non-clinical recovery residences automatically means that it is not housing. Therefore, it does not have to adhere to land-tenant and other housing laws. Judges and civil rights attorneys may disagree. State and local laws can differ. Rather than make assumptions on this matter, seek legal counsel.
To the extent that a recovery residence is housing, it is regulated as housing. And, to the extent it is treated, it is regulated as a treatment facility. Note the laws that separate nonclinical and clinical recovery residences differ across states and change over time. In most states, the line is drawn between Level III and Level IV. In some states, the line is between Level II and Level III.
Relevant housing regulations include:
- Fair Housing (local, state and federal)*
- Americans with Disabilities Act (federal)
- Tenant rights (state)
- Public Housing Policies (local and federal)
- Federal Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1988 (federal)
- Land Use Ordinances (local)
- Health and Safety building codes (local)
- A growing number of states implement voluntary certification, referral restrictions, anti-kickback/brokering, and ethical marketing regulation.
We encourage you to research each of these laws in detail and seek legal counsel as needed.