Law School Case Brief
S. Burlington Cty. NAACP v. Mount Laurel - 67 N.J. 151, 336 A.2d 713 (1975)
Every developing municipality must, by its land use regulations, presumptively make realistically possible an appropriate variety and choice of housing. Presumptively it cannot foreclose the opportunity of the classes of people mentioned for low and moderate income housing and in its regulations must affirmatively afford that opportunity, at least to the extent of the municipality's fair share of the present and prospective regional need therefor. These obligations must be met unless the particular municipality can sustain the heavy burden of demonstrating peculiar circumstances which dictate that it should not be required so to do.
Defendant Township of Mount Laurel had a system of land use regulation where the low and moderate income families were excluded from the Township. The reason for the regulation was to keep down local taxes on property. The effect of the zoning land use regulation was to prevent various categories of persons from living in the Township because of the limited extent of their income and resources. Plaintiff S. Burlington County N.A.A.C.P. filed a lawsuit in New Jersey state court against the Township seeking to have the ordinance invalidates. The trial court found that the Township had unlawfully excluded low and moderate income families from the municipality by means of its zoning ordinance, and ordered affirmative relief. Unfortunately, the court order did not include relief for persons who were not residents.
Was the zoning ordinance unconstitutional?
The state supreme court found that under the zoning restrictions, only single-family homes and expensive multi-family housing could be built to keep down local taxes on property. While a municipality could consider that factor in its zoning decisions, the Court clarified that the Township could not make it impossible to provide low and moderate income housing within the Township. The court held it inherent in N.J. Const. art. I, para. 1 that all police power enactments had to conform to the basic constitutional requirements of substantive due process and equal protection of the laws. Further, the Township's obligation to afford the opportunity for adequate low and moderate income housing extended at least to its fair share of the present and prospective regional need therefor.
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