Exclusionary Zoning: A Wrong in Search of a Remedy

This article discusses affirmative approaches to providing effective relief in two types of exclusionary zoning cases: (1) remedies specific to a particular proposed development or a given site and (2) regional remedies, which provide a generalized framework for meeting what courts are increasingly identifying as a regional problem: the need for decent housing for all families. In the first instance (the “single-site” case) a court would remove obstacles in order to facilitate development of low- and moderate- income housing on a particular suburban site. In the second case (the regional approach) a court would specify the obligation of the municipalities in a “region” in terms of the number of units of low- and moderate-income housing to be provided in each particular community. This obligation would be a proportionate share of the low- and moderate-income housing needed in the region as a whole, and would constitute the measure of relief to which an aggrieved plaintiff would be entitled. The court would also adopt mechanisms to insure implementation of this regional housing distribution system. Under either approach invalidation of exclusionary zoning schemes by the courts would be converted into the only form of effective relief, increased housing opportunities in suburban areas for low- and moderate-income families.