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S. Burlington Cty. NAACP v. Mount Laurel - 92 N.J. 158, 456 A.2d 390 (1983)


Plaintiff may continue to prove (in addition to or instead of proving the fair share obligation of the municipality) that the land use regulations fail to provide a realistic opportunity for low and moderate income housing or that they contain expressly prescribed requirements or restrictions which preclude or substantially hinder it. As before, such a showing shall create a prima facie case of a failure to satisfy the Mount Laurel obligation. The municipality shall then have the heavy burden of demonstrating, by a preponderance of the evidence, its fair share and its satisfaction of that share, or any justification of its failure. It shall not be sufficient in such cases to show merely that there are one, two or three zones that purport to contain provisions for multi-family dwellings: what is needed where facial invalidity is relied on by the plaintiff is a definite presentation of facts by the defendant-municipality that shows that it has satisfied its fair share obligation.


Eight years after the Supreme Court of New Jersey set forth in Southern Burlington County N.A.A.C.P. v. Township of Mount Laurel, 67 N.J. 151 (1975) (Mount Laurel I) the doctrine requiring that municipalities' land use regulations must provide a realistic opportunity for low and moderate income housing, Plaintiffs, prospective residents and a mobile home developer, again challenged the zoning ordinance of defendant Township of Mount Laurel, charging that the ordinance was still blatantly exclusionary. Plaintiffs were lower income persons seeking housing in the city. In response to Mount Laurel I, which invalidated portions of the existing zoning ordinance, the Township simply added three new zones to meet its fair share obligation, instead of attempting to amend the deficiencies noted by the state supreme court. Plaintiffs again challenged the ordinance, and a mobile home developer was permitted to intervene as plaintiff. Several trial courts issued orders, which upheld the ordinance after concluding that Mount Laurel had acted in good faith and with the express intent of compliance. Plaintiffs sought appellate review.


Was the municipal ordinance that made it challenging to provide low and moderate income housing in the municipality valid?




Again, the Supreme Court of New Jersey reversed and remanded, holding that the amended ordinance fell short of what was required; that it neither corrected the deficiencies of the prior ordinance nor otherwise affirmatively provided a realistic opportunity for the Township's fair share of lower income housing. The court held that satisfaction of the Mount Laurel I obligation was to be determined solely on an objective basis: if the Township had in fact provided a realistic opportunity for the construction of its fair share of low and moderate income housing, it had met the Mount Laurel I obligation to satisfy the constitutional requirement; if it had not, then it had failed to satisfy it.

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