The Denison City Council recently approved two ordinance changes related to fair housing standards for the disabled and elderly. The changes, which will allow for household care and other rehabilitative care services, are to be allowed within all districts within the city, by right.

Under the previous city ordinance, household care facilities for the disabled, which would house patients and caregivers, were allowed with a conditional use permit. These facilities would also include drug rehabilitative facilities and services for those with addiction and mental health issues. After Monday’s action, facilities of up to six live-in patients and two caregivers are allowed without any additional restrictions by the city. However, the action is subject to finalized legal review.

Development Services Director Gabe Reaume said this change will put the city in line with both state and national standards related to fair housing.

“The overall idea at the federal and state level is authorities cannot place stricter requirements for housing on the disabled than they can for anyone else,” Reaume said.

The issue was discussed earlier this summer extensively by the Denison Planning and Zoning Commission, and the code change was approve by the commission in July.

Reaume said the topic came up after city staff received planning documents for a residential development that likely could house such a use. The plans called for six bedrooms, each with their own individual bathroom.

“The reality is there is a number of these facilities already operating in neighborhoods,” Reaume said. “Nobody would likely know otherwise.”

Reaume said the topic became an issue recently after the city of Fort Worth lost a court case regarding household care facilities. After requests related to operations repeatedly denied by Fort Worth P&Z, the provider successfully sued the city, citing rights to adequate and fair housing.

When asked about concerns that these uses could affect neighborhoods, Reaume said there has been a stigma against them. However, he said they are regulated and registered at the state level. It is not the city of Denison’s decision to make, he said.

In a separate companion piece to the household care request, the city approved a reasonable accommodations process for individuals with disabilities. This will create a process in which individuals with disabilities can request relief from a regulation that would otherwise allow them to enjoy the use of a residence.

As an example of this, Reaume cited a situation in which someone who utilizes a wheelchair requests permission to build a ramp in the front yard setback in order to easily enter and leave the home.