Toolkit Topic

How Many People Can Live in a House?

This is an item in our Local Government Toolkit

You are not required to determine a specific number of occupants for residences in the city or county you represent. Nevertheless, some local governments have ordinances that limit occupancy—for all residences—to as low as three or four.

These laws not only remove the judgment of property owners, but they fail to account for variations in home size, bedroom numbers, and parking availability. They also actively hurt those you represent by making housing shortages worse.

Some cite various health and safety concerns as reasons for strict occupancy limits. However, most ordinances have exceptions to occupancy limits when the individuals are related to each other. This exception for families suggests that health and safety is not protected—or inherently violated—at occupancies of three, four, five, or six.

We recommend addressing concerns sometimes associated with occupancy, such as noise from late-night parties and neighborhood parking issues, with enforcement of existing laws related to those nuisances. For example, If ordinances to address neighborhood noise and parking do not exist (or are not being enforced), we recommend adopting and enforcing those laws, rather than attempting to resolve them by granting the government the ability to arbitrarily decide how many people can live in a residence.

Are you a local elected official and interested in chatting with us more about this topic? Please reach out to us at—we’d love to chat!