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Group Homes

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Information and FAQs about group homes in Tempe

Why is a commercial business, such as a group home, allowed in a single-family residential neighborhood?

There are a few uses that may be considered commercial but are allowed in neighborhoods due to the nature of the business and its function to act or provide services within a neighborhood. These include group homes, schools, bed and breakfasts, short term vacation rentals, in-home childcare, country clubs and golf courses and home-based businesses within a primary residence.  Group homes can accommodate assisted living, child shelter, such as for foster children, and homes for the disabled.

Why are group homes allowed in residential neighborhoods?

Arizona Revised Statutes allows for the use of group homes or residential facilities. A Tempe ordinance was adopted in 1992, allowing for the regulations Tempe has today, allowing up to 10 residents within a group home. A group home must be at least 1,200 feet away (about a quarter of a mile) from the lot line of another registered group home. At this time, there are approximately 74 registered group homes within Tempe’s city limits.

What are the regulations for residential group homes?

According to state statute, an Assisted Living Group Home is an allowed use in residential zoning, under the regulatory control from the State of Arizona. The licensing/monitoring process rests with the Arizona Department of Health Services. Similar to the State’s separation requirements, the Tempe Zoning and Development Code also has a requirement for 1,200-foot separation distance from the lot line of one group home to the lot line of another existing group home. This regulation assists with avoiding clustering of the same use in a specific area. 

State law also requires that certain residential facilities, such as those serving persons with developmental disabilities, shall not be included in any definition that implies that the residential facility differs in any way from a single-family residence. A.R.S. sec. 36-582. In addition, the Fair Housing Amendments Act broadly mandates the elimination of discrimination against housing opportunities for disabled individuals. 42 U.S.C.A. sec. 3601, et seq.

Why was a building permit issued that allowed for 10 residents to within a group home?

If the project meets all local regulatory requirements and safety requirements set out in the Tempe Building Code, staff is obligated to issue a building permit. Applicants may file either for a group home with up to five residents (no occupancy change) or a 6-10 resident group home, which requires an occupancy change and additional life safety measures for the building such as fire sprinklers. Also, the State of Arizona limits the total number of assisted living occupants to 10 through the licensing review process. Additionally, Tempe’s Fire Medical Rescue inspectors conduct annual inspections of registered group homes to ensure compliance with safety regulations.

I’ve heard that the City of Chandler limits the number of residents in a residential group home like this to 5 individuals? How is that the case?

It is important to note that while the City of Chandler’s ordinance limits the number of residents to 5, they allow for a Reasonable Accommodation Waiver. This Reasonable Accommodation Waiver, if approved, waives the 5 resident limit and allows for more than 5 residents to live in a residential care home.

As part of the application linked above there is an option to request a waiver of the 5 max residents limit. After speaking with the City of Chandler, City of Tempe staff confirmed that this is common and that they are currently processing a waiver to allow for a 10-resident group home. That waiver is being processed by a staff committee comprised of representatives from various Chandler City Departments, including Neighborhood Resources, Building Safety, Police, and the City Attorney’s Office.

The City of Tempe’s process for an occupancy change to allow for 10 residents at a proposed residential group home is much the same as Chandler. Various departments also examine the home and whether it would meet minimum square foot requirements per person and have the required safety features.

Our neighborhood has CC&Rs that restrict certain uses or what could be built or modified. How is the group home allowed to proceed forward?

Although CC&R’s have certain restrictions that may limit or restrict certain uses, the City of Tempe has no regulatory jurisdiction or enforcement authority over CC&R regulations for a subdivision. This circumstance would need to be resolved either directly with the property owner and/or through private litigation. Any use/additions or modifications are required to be in compliance with the Zoning District standards for setbacks, lot coverage, and compliant with Tempe’s Building Codes and must comply with state and federal law.

Why can’t the City of Tempe change its zoning code and not allow for this group home to be constructed?

There are several reasons. 

First, state law will not allow the City of Tempe to deny the building permits for this residential group home. If the project meets all local regulatory requirements and Building Code, staff is obligated to issue a building permit.

Secondly, in 2006, the voters passed a ballot initiative titled, the “Private Property Rights Protection Act.”  This act requires the government to reimburse landowners when regulations result in a decrease in the property's value and also prevents government from exercising eminent domain on behalf of a private party.

Also, federal law also guarantees that developmentally disabled and handicapped persons are afforded equal opportunities to use and enjoy housing under the Fair Housing Act. 42 U.S.C.A. sec. 3604(f)(2). Zoning regulations that may have the effect of discriminating against disabled persons under Federal law, if the regulations contribute to denying residential housing to those individuals. City zoning regulations concerning group housing must be analyzed under and comply with Federal and State laws.

Why doesn’t Tempe provide public notice of the proposed use of a “Group Home for Adult Care or Persons with Disabilities? 

According to Section 3-409 (D) of the Tempe Zoning and Development Code, review and approval by the Community Development Director or designee  is required for building use and land use compliance. If the applicant complies with all zoning regulations, building safety and fire code requirements, the approval is handled administratively; there is no discretion for the Council or for staff to deny an application. Typically, administrative approvals do not result in public notice by the City and the Zoning and Development Code does not provide for such notice. Requests to the State for approval of a group home are public record.

What is there to prevent a group home owner from converting a  property into a VRBO or guest quarters? 

Private property rights in Arizona would allow a property owner to use his or her property within the bounds of the law, including the potential for a short-term rental property. There is little that the City can do if a landowner is utilizing his or her property in keeping within the law. Guest quarters regulations applies when a livable sleeping area is not accessible through the main residence.

Is there a requirement that a realtor disclose that there is an assisted living home next door or in close proximity to a home that is listed for sale? Have there been any studies to assess home values when there is a group home located in a single-family home neighborhood?

These is no requirement to our knowledge. It is possible that if asked, a realtor may disclose the existence of an assisted living or group home unless such disclosure could be considered a discriminatory practice under the Fair Housing Act.

What recourse do we have if a homeowner decides to run a business out of his single-family home?

A resident may operate a “home occupation” or home-based business, based on the requirements found in Section 3-412, of the Tempe Zoning and Development Code.

What if I have complaints about a group home in operation?

If there are nuisances resulting in violation of City Codes, such as loud noises, overgrown weeds, excessive parking on site, you may contact Tempe 311 at 480-350-4311. For all other complaints you may contact the Arizona Department of Health Services online complaint form through its website at

What is the City of Tempe doing to help represent neighborhoods?

The Tempe City Council has identified safety, strong community connections, quality of life, sustainability, and financial stability as priorities in the delivery of City services. The importance of state legislation is that it can impact the City’s ability to deliver on its strategic priority commitment. During the 2020 State Legislative Session, the City Council endorses the following principles when considering the City’s position on state legislative proposals:

Preserve local decision-making – The City believes that the most effective, responsible and responsive government is the government closest to the people. The City supports legislative proposals that preserve or enhance the City’s ability to govern locally and opposes legislative proposals that reduce or restrict the City’s local authority.

Land use planning – Preserve local decision-making to set land use and development policies, allowing the City to continue providing opportunities for citizen-driven planning while monitoring any legislation that may impact local planning authority.

Regulatory Reform – Oppose proposals that limit the City’s flexibility to adjust and improve programs and processes that support the existing framework for regulatory reform.

Reach out to the City of Tempe Community Development Department.
Phone: 480-350-4311