Growing Food Where You Live

Being able to grow food where you live is a valuable right, but not everyone may have this opportunity based on the kind of housing they live in. The ability to grow your own food has nutritional, cultural, environmental, economic, and historical significance. It can help alleviate food insecurity by providing access to healthy, culturally relevant food. Homegrown food connects people to their families, cultures, and history and can help support food sovereignty. Locally grown food reduces reliance on industrial food production and transportation practices that contribute to climate change. These are just a few of the reasons why being able to grow food where you live is vital.

The COVID-19 pandemic also highlights the importance of making access to healthy food easier, including through front yard, backyard, and community gardens. People have been encouraged to avoid crowded public areas, including grocery stores, due to the high transmissibility of the virus, and while physically distancing at home, many people turned to outdoor activities to support mental health. Growing food at home also can help to stretch food budget dollars, which has become even more important for the millions of people who have experienced economic challenges related to the pandemic.

This resource focuses on opportunities for—and challenges to—growing food for people who rent their home, lease the land they live on, or live in common interest communities. People who live in these types of housing situations may face unique legal obstacles to growing food on the land where they reside that go beyond state and local laws that apply to anyone who wants or needs to grow food at home. These restrictions can come from leases, contracts, community agreements, state and local law, property covenants, and court cases. This resource discusses the rights, responsibilities, and obligations that apply to these different settings to help residents, food policy councils, healthy food advocates, housing advocates, and local governments support more people in growing food where they live.

Helpful Terms to Know

Growing food may also be referred to by terms such as vegetable gardening, edible landscaping, or personal agriculture. However, this resource does not address raising animals, such as chickens, bees, or goats, for food production.

Rental housing includes houses, duplexes, multi-unit apartment buildings, and any other kind of dwelling that is rented for people to live in. Renters represent a large and growing number of people in the United States, and rental housing accounts for over one in three housing units.

Manufactured home parks may also be referred to as mobile home parks, and sometimes as trailer home parks; however, not all trailer home parks may fit under mobile home park or manufactured home park categories. Also, some manufactured home parks have a cooperative ownership structure, which means that the information about common interest communities in this resource would also apply to them.

Common interest communities are referred to by many terms, including community associations, common interest associations, and common interest developments. Common interest communities may include condominiums, townhomes, cooperatives, retirement communities, and other housing developments with shared facilities or common areas. In 2020, over one in four people in the United States live in these communities, and 77% of all new housing built for sale is structured as a common interest community.

Next: Why Being Able to Grow Food Where You Live Matters



This resource was developed for the Healthy Food Policy Project by the Public Health Law Center. Rebecca Hare (Attorney Fellow) was the lead researcher and writer, with input from Ross Daniels, Natasha Frost, and Mary Marrow. Additional research and writing support was provided by student Research Assistants Carly Johnson, Rachel Lantz, and Khou Yang. Appreciation also goes out to Healthy Food Policy Project Advisory Committee members Lauren Lowery and Kathryn Underwood, and to Lihlani Skipper, the coordinator for the Healthy Food Policy Project, for their thoughtful review and comments on a draft of this resource.

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