The city of Boise receives about a dozen complaints a year from people about group residences — known by several names, including group homes, halfway houses and sober houses.
Q: How many people can live in a house?
State law allows up to eight unrelated people to live in a single-family home if they are disabled or have an age-related infirmity, and are being supervised at the home because of those factors.
Outside of those situations, Boise city code allows up to five people to share a single-family home. The city rarely issues citations for this because property owners usually move people out as soon as they get a warning.
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Q: What is a group home?
It’s often used as a catch-all term for a house with several people living in it. “Group home” may refer to a home for people in drug or alcohol recovery. It may even refer to a house shared by several college students. A “group home” may actually be a “residential assisted living facility” that is licensed, regulated and staffed. Group homes are allowed anywhere in the city. Law prohibits zoning discrimination or any other kind of different treatment when it comes to people with disabilities.
Q: What is a halfway house?
A halfway house is a residence for people who are transitioning back into society from prison. The Federal Bureau of Prisons contracts with providers to run the houses. Port of Hope Centers is the contractor in Idaho.
Halfway houses aren’t allowed in single-family residential zones in Boise, according to city officials. However, a landlord may rent to ex-prisoners without running a halfway house.
Q: What is a sober house?
Sober-living houses are run through a state contractor, BPA Health. They usually house eight to 12 people and typically are in residential zones. The houses have strict rules and schedules, including a requirement for the men and women who live there to be in recovery programs.
Idaho has 17 providers operating 47 such housing locations in the state.
A landlord may rent to people in recovery without running an official sober house.
Q: How many group homes are in Boise?
“We don’t track them. We’re not allowed to,” said Mike Journee, spokesman for the mayor’s office. “It specifically says in the code that those are not homes we are supposed to regulate. ... Federal laws are very specific about what we can and cannot [do] about where people can live and where they can’t.”
Q: A group home is opening next to me. Can I stop it?
No. If the group home becomes a problem for you, you can contact the house manager or the property owner. If there is illegal activity, you can call the police just like with any other residence. If you think a house has more residents than it should under city code, you can contact the city’s zoning department for a review.