Judges as Agents of Social Change: Can the Courts Break the Affordable Housing Deadlock in Metropolitan Areas?
Nowhere is the chasm between the races more prevalent than in the physical division of metropolitan areas between inner-city poverty and suburban affluence. Thus far, public policy efforts to introduce metropolitan perspectives into local land use regulations have been unsuccessful. The series of New Jersey Mount Laurel decisions lays out a possible path for introducing comprehensive regional planning by deploying the constitutional power of state courts. Relying on the allied professionals of economics and city planning, the New Jersey Supreme Court eliminated the legal barriers to affordable housing in the suburbs.
Questions have been raised over courts’ ability to reform local government powers, but many traditional objections to the effectiveness of judicial reform seem to have been overcome in the New Jersey litigations and legislations. State courts can plan an indispensable role in solving regional land use problems if they secure the support of community leadership groups. (Author)
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