Legislative Code

Sec. 65.160 of the Legislative Code defines a sober house and establishes standards and conditions as follows: Sec. 65.160. Sober house. A dwelling unit occupied by more than four persons, all of whom are in recovery from chemical dependency and considered handicapped under the Federal Fair Housing Act Amendments of 1988. It provides a non-institutional residential environment in which the residents willingly subject themselves to written rules and conditions, including prohibition of alcohol and drug use (except for prescription medications obtained and used under medical supervision), intended to encourage and sustain their recovery. The residents of a sober house are similar to a family unit, and share kitchen and bathroom facilities and other common areas of the unit. Sober houses are financially self-supporting. This definition does not include facilities that receive operating revenue from governmental sources. Sober houses do not provide on-site supportive services to residents, including the following: mental health services; clinical rehabilitation services; social services; medical, dental, nutritional and other health care services; financial management services; legal services; vocational services; and other similar supportive services.

Standards and conditions:

A request for reasonable accommodation for this use as required under the Federal Fair Housing Act Amendments of 1988 by providing an exception to the maximum number of unrelated persons living together in a dwelling unit shall automatically be granted if the following standards and conditions are met. This does not limit the city from granting additional reasonable accommodation for this use under the general provisions of this code. (a) The operator shall submit a request for reasonable accommodation to the zoning administrator on a form provided by the city, specify the number of residents, and provide information necessary to assure the use meets applicable zoning standards. The maximum total number of residents permitted in the sober house shall be specified by the fire certificate of occupancy (b) For a sober house that does not meet the parking requirement in section 63.207 (1.5 off-street parking spaces per every 4 adult facility residents), the operator shall submit a written parking plan that demonstrates sufficient parking for the use. (c) In RL-R4 Residential Districts, the sober house shall serve ten (10) or fewer residents. (d) For a structure serving seventeen (17) or more sober house residents, a conditional use permit is required. This use shall be exempt from section 61.501 conditional use permit general standards (a), (c), and (d). (e) Property containing one or more sober house units shall be a minimum distance of three hundred thirty (330) feet from any other property containing a sober house.

Applicant's Role

Any person having ownership or leasehold or interested in the subject land or building is eligible to file an application for a sober house. The applicant (owner, manager or resident representative) of a proposed sober house submits an application form to the Department of Safety and Inspections, c/o Zoning Administrator, 375 Jackson Street, Suite 220, Saint Paul, Minnesota 55101 or via email to: DSI-ZoningReview@stpaul.gov. The following information is required to be submitted:

  1. Request for Reasonable Accommodation form, including a written explanation of how the proposed accommodation would benefit persons with a disability, and why it is necessary to meet their particular needs
  2. Sober House Addendum to Request for Reasonable Accommodation form, including information to help City staff determine if the proposed sober house is in conformance with Sec. 65.160 of the Legislative Code.
  3. The required filing fee of $373.00


  1. The applicant will notify the zoning staff of their intent to open a sober house in Saint Paul.
  2. The zoning staff will give the applicant the required forms to be completed.
  3. Once completed and returned with the required filing fee to zoning staff, the Zoning Administrator will review the forms and other information submitted by the applicant for their conformance with the standards outlined in Sec. 65.160. If the application is incomplete, the Zoning Administrator may request additional information to be submitted.
  4. The Zoning Administrator will approve or deny the application. The applicant will be informed of the Zoning Administrator decision in a letter. The applicant or any affected persons may appeal the Zoning Administrator decision to the Board of Zoning Appeals within 10 days after the decision is made. There is a fee for appeals.

If you have any questions, please contact:

Zoning Office

375 Jackson Street, Suite 220

Saint Paul, MN 55101

Phone: 651-266 - 9008

Email: DSI-ZoningReview@stpaul.gov

Last Edited: January 8, 2021