Albert v. ZHB of North Abington Twp.
854 A.2d 401, (Pa. 2004).

Case Details:

The PA Supreme Court laid out the two factors determining if a group of unrelated individuals can be a “single family.” First, there cannot be a profit motive in bringing the individuals together. Second, there must be some stability and permanence among the individuals residing in the dwelling.

In this case, the landowner applied to the zoning hearing board for a license to open a halfway house for recovering alcoholics. She explained that she was not operating the facility to generate a profit; however, she was going to charge the boarders about $100 a day. Although she did not have any specific figures for the expenses of the facility, she did state that she was going to lease the land for the facility from land owner jointly between herself and sisters for $4,000 a month. She explained that if there were any profits that generated from operating the facility, she would donate them to a local youth or charity organization.

The local residents, who opposed the grant of the license, claimed that the facility was operating to generate a profit. They claimed that the prices that the facility was going to charge the boarders far exceeded the costs of the facility to run. However, the court disagreed. The court stated that a group of individuals may still be considered a single family even though there is a charge for boarding at the residence. Profit must be the basis for creating the relationship among the individuals. Although it appeared that the facility might generate a profit, the facility agreed to operate as a non-profit corporation; thereby alleviating the possibility of a profit.

In determining if the relationship was similar to the concept of a “family,” the court explored the stability and permanence among the boarders. The court stated that in some circumstances, a group of individuals may be considered a single family even when some residents only stay for a short while; however, in this case, the purpose of the facility was to house the residents only until they could go back to their own families. Thus, the time the boarders spend at the facility would be “purely transient.” The population in the proposed facility could turn over as many as six times per year, this was “simply incompatible with the single family concept.”

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