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Southern Burlington County, NAACP v. Township of Mount Laurel

    Brief Fact Summary. A developing municipality had zoning regulations, which prevented low and moderate income housing to be built.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law. A developing municipality must, buy its land use regulations, make realistically possible the opportunity for an appropriate variety and choice of housing for all categories of people who may desire to live there.

    Facts. The zoning ordinance of the Township of Mount Laurel (Defendant) only allows for homes within the reach of persons of at least middle income. The homes must be single-family detached dwellings with a certain minimum square feet. The ordinance also set aside almost 30% of the land to be zoned for industrial and related use, though only a small amount has actually been developed industrially. Plaintiffs represent the minority group seeking living accommodations in the town. They allege that the regulations exclude low and moderate-income families.

    Issue. May a developing municipality validly, with its zoning ordinances, make it physically and economically impossible to provide low and moderate income housing in the municipality for the various categories of persons who need and want it and thereby exclude such people from living within its confines because of the limited extent of their income and resources?

    Held. No.
    A municipality must, by its land use regulations, presumptively make realistically possible an appropriate variety and choice of housing. It cannot foreclose the opportunity of low and moderate income housing, and its regulations must affirmatively afford that opportunity. These obligations must be met unless the municipality can meet the heavy burden of demonstrating particular circumstances, which dictate that it should not be required to do so.
    Land use regulation falls in a state’s police power. All police power enactments must conform to state constitutional requirements of substantive due process and equal protection of the law. The regulation must promote the general welfare.
    The proper provision for adequate housing for all types of people is an absolute essential in promotion of ht general welfare. There is a presumptive obligation that each municipality should affirmatively pan and provide, by zoning, the reasonable opportunity for an appropriate variety and choice of housing, including low and moderate cost housing. It cannot adopt regulations, which preclude that opportunity.
    Defendant’s zoning ordinance is presumptively contrary to the general welfare and outside of the zoning power.
    While a developing municipality may zone to create a better economic balance for the community, they cannot do so my restricting the types of housing available. When a municipality zones for industry and commerce for local tax benefit purposes, they must zone to permit adequate housing within the means of the employees involved in such uses. The amount of land removed from residential use by allocation to industrial purposes must be reasonably related to the present and future potential for such purposes.

    Discussion. When the zoning ordinance of a municipality does not advance the general welfare of the community, it will be struck down. Zoning which seeks to exclude people based on their income does not promote the general wel


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