Zoning related to adult foster care (AFC) homes

Zoning for adult foster care facilities requires a detailed review of state residential facility licensing types, similar dwelling types, density, and zoning districts.

For decorative purposes.

The Michigan Zoning Enabling Act (MZEA) requires that state licensed residential facilities, adult foster care facilities, and qualified residential treatment programs be treated as a residential use of property and a permitted use in all residential zones. Furthermore, these residential facilities cannot be subject to a procedure different from those required for other dwellings of similar density in the same zone (MCL 125.3206 (1).

Qualified residential treatment programs providing services to 10 or fewer individuals was added as a “residential use of property” under House Bill 5981 in 2022.

There are many licensing levels for adult foster care within the Adult Foster Care Facility Licensing Act (Act 218 of 1979). For zoning adult foster care (AFC) in residential settings, the most common licenses are (MCL 400.703):

  • Adult foster care family home: a private residence with the approved capacity to receive six or fewer adults to be provided with foster care for 5 or more days a week and for two or more consecutive weeks. The adult foster care family home licensee shall be a member of the household, and an occupant of the residence.
  • Adult foster care small group home: an adult foster care facility with the approved capacity to receive 12 or fewer adults to be provided with foster care.
  • Adult foster care large group home: an adult foster care facility with the approved capacity to receive at least 13 but not more than 20 adults to be provided with foster care.

AFC facilities do not include a nursing home, home for the aged (HFA), licensed foster family or foster family group homes, and other exceptions found in the Act (MCL 400.703 (4a-k). Other exceptions exist, such as for licensed adult foster care facilities for people released from or assigned to adult correctional facilities (MCL 125.3206 (2)). A thorough reading of MCL 125.3206 is necessary to navigate AFC and daycare exceptions within the MZEA.

An application for an AFC family home or small group home is often handled administratively, with the same application procedures as a single-family dwelling. For AFC large group homes (13-20 adults) communities consider classifying the use, a) within districts containing similar residential densities as a permitted use or, b) within varying residential or mixed-use districts as a special land use (with an eye toward the consistent treatment of similar residential uses of the same density).

If your community is preparing a zoning amendment related to AFC homes, you might consider these questions:

  1. If an AFC large group home (13-20 adults) is classified as a special land use within a certain zoning district, is the procedure no different than for other dwellings of similar density in the same zone? Are there potentially discriminatory standards for approval, such as the required 1,000-foot separation between AFC homes?
  2. Are definitions for each licensure type (family home, small group home, large group home) included in the ordinance? Do the definitions match the land use classifications within the districts?
  3. Check for inconsistencies with equivalent residential uses of similar density. For example, are AFC family care homes subject to the same procedures as single-family homes in the same district or are there extra requirements?

There are many issues to consider when classifying and locating AFC homes and other state licensed residential facilities in a zoning ordinance. Attempting to regulate the operations of a state licensed facility is prohibited by MCL 400.733.  Consistency between the Michigan Zoning Enabling Act and the Adult Foster Care Facilities Licensing Act is key. Consider contacting a municipal attorney or AICP certified planner to assist with an AFC or qualified residential treatment program amendment.

Those in Michigan State University Extension that focus on land use provide various training programs on planning and zoning, which are available to be presented in your county. Contact your local land use educator for more information.

Did you find this article useful?