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Warth v. Seldin

Supreme Court of the United States

Argued March 17, 1975 ; June 25, 1975

No. 73-2024


 [***351]   [**2202]   [*493]  MR. JUSTICE POWELL delivered the opinion of the Court.

Petitioners, various organizations and individuals resident in the Rochester, N. Y., metropolitan area, brought this action in the District Court for the Western District of New York against the town of Penfield, an incorporated municipality adjacent to Rochester, and against members of Penfield's Zoning, Planning, and Town Boards. Petitioners claimed that the town's zoning ordinance, by its terms and as enforced by the defendant board members, respondents here, effectively excluded persons of low and moderate income from living in the town, in contravention of petitioners' First, Ninth, and Fourteenth Amendment rights and in violation of 42 U.S.C. §§ 1981, 1982, and 1983. The District Court dismissed the complaint and denied a motion to add petitioner Housing Council in the Monroe County Area, Inc., as party-plaintiff and also a motion by petitioner Rochester Home Builders Association, Inc., for leave to intervene as party-plaintiff. The Court of Appeals for [****8]  the Second Circuit affirmed, holding that none of the plaintiffs, and neither Housing Council nor Home Builders Association, had standing to prosecute the action. 495 F. 2d 1187 (1974). We granted the petition for certiorari. 419 U.S. 823 (1974). For reasons that differ in certain respects from those upon which the Court of Appeals relied, we affirm.

Petitioners Metro-Act of Rochester, Inc., and eight individual plaintiffs, on behalf of themselves and all persons similarly situated, 2 filed this  [***352]  action on January 24,  [*494]  1972, averring jurisdiction in the District Court under 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331 and 1343. The complaint identified  [**2203]  Metro-Act as a not-for-profit New York corporation, the purposes of which are "to alert ordinary citizens to problems of social concern;… to inquire into the reasons for the critical housing shortage for low and moderate income persons in the Rochester area and to urge action on the part of citizens to alleviate the general housing shortage for low and moderate income persons." 3 Plaintiffs Vinkey, Reichert, Warth, and Harris were described as residents of the city [****9]  of Rochester, all of whom owned real property in and paid property taxes to that city. 4 Plaintiff Ortiz, "a citizen of Spanish/Puerto Rican extraction," App. 7, also owned real property in and paid taxes to Rochester. Ortiz, however, resided in Wayland, N. Y., some 42 miles from Penfield where he was employed. 5 The complaint described plaintiffs Broadnax, Reyes, and Sinkler as residents of Rochester and "persons fitting within the classification of low and moderate income as hereinafter defined…." 6 Ibid. Although  [*495]  the complaint does not expressly so state, the record shows that Broadnax, Reyes, and Sinkler are members of ethnic or racial minority groups: Reyes is of Puerto Rican ancestry; Broadnax and Sinkler are Negroes.

 [****10]  Petitioners' complaint alleged that Penfield's zoning ordinance, adopted in 1962, has the purpose and effect of excluding persons of low and moderate income from residing in the town. In particular, the ordinance allocates 98% of the town's vacant land to single-family detached housing, and allegedly by imposing unreasonable requirements relating to lot size, setback, floor area, and habitable space, the ordinance increases the cost of single-family detached housing beyond the means of persons of low and moderate income. Moreover, according to petitioners, only 0.3% of the land available for residential construction is allocated to multifamily structures (apartments, townhouses, and the like), and even on this limited space, housing for low-and moderate-income persons is not economically feasible because of low density and other requirements. Petitioners also alleged that "in furtherance of a policy of exclusionary zoning," id., at 22, the defendant members of Penfield's Town, Zoning, and Planning Boards had acted in an arbitrary and discriminatory manner: they had delayed  [***353]  action on proposals for low- and moderate-cost housing for inordinate periods of time; denied such [****11]  proposals for arbitrary and insubstantial reasons; refused to grant necessary variances and permits, or to allow tax abatements; failed to provide necessary support services for low- and moderate-cost housing projects; and had  [*496]  amended the ordinance to make approval of such projects virtually impossible.

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422 U.S. 490 *; 95 S. Ct. 2197 **; 45 L. Ed. 2d 343 ***; 1975 U.S. LEXIS 76 ****




housing, practices, moderate income, allegations, zoning, residents, respondents', petitioners', rights, moderate-income, exclusionary, projects, zoning ordinance, third party, ordinance, moderate-cost, particular project, merits, cases, low-income, taxpayers, federal court, metropolitan, variance, courts, invoke, harms, motion to dismiss, right of action, prudential

Civil Procedure, Justiciability, Standing, Personal Stake, Constitutional Law, Case or Controversy, General Overview, Preliminary Considerations, The Judiciary, Governments, Federal Government, US Congress, Pleadings, Amendment of Pleadings, Responses, Defenses, Demurrers & Objections, Motions to Dismiss, Business & Corporate Compliance, Real Property Law, Zoning, Zoning Methods, Real Property Law, Judicial Review, Elements, Case & Controversy Requirements, Third Party Standing