On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Middlesex County, which opinion is reported at 142 N.J. Super. 11 (1976).
Halpern, Ard and Antell. The opinion of the court was delivered by Antell, J.A.D.
Defendants appeal from a judgment of the Chancery Division invalidating their zoning ordinances to the extent that they make inadequate provision for fair shares of low and moderate-income regional housing needs and requiring them to rezone in accordance with specified allocations.
Plaintiff Urban League is a nonprofit corporation which works to improve the economic conditions of racial and ethnic minority groups and alleges a special interest in the need for low and moderate-income housing. The individual plaintiffs are low and moderate-income persons residing in Northeastern New Jersey. They seek housing and employment opportunities for themselves and educational opportunities for their children in defendant municipalities, but claim these are foreclosed by defendants' allegedly exclusionary land use regulations. Plaintiffs
bring this action on their own behalf and on behalf of others similarly situated, pursuant to R. 4:32.
The 23 defendants originally sued compose all the municipalities in Middlesex County except for Perth Amboy and New Brunswick. During the proceedings below the complaint was unconditionally dismissed with respect to defendant Dunellen, and consent judgments of conditional dismissal were entered with respect to 11 other defendants. Of the remainder only Old Bridge (formerly known as Madison Township) did not appeal. Appeals are now being pursued only by Cranbury, East Brunswick, Monroe, Piscataway, Plainsboro, Sayreville, South Brunswick and South Plainfield. Also before us is plaintiffs' cross-appeal from the court's denial of relief requested beyond what was granted.
Defendants first contend that the trial judge erred in ruling that the individual plaintiffs had standing to urge state constitutional infirmities in defendants' zoning ordinances. In raising this issue defendants essentially contend that criteria for standing in these cases should be confined to those specifically applied in South Burlington Cty. N.A.A.C.P. v. Mt. Laurel Tp. , 67 N.J. 151 (1975) (hereinafter Mt. Laurel). They argue that because these plaintiffs, except for one, neither reside in defendant municipalities nor have actively sought housing there they fail to qualify.
But New Jersey rules of standing are characterized by great liberality. The test is whether plaintiffs have a sufficient stake in the outcome of the proceedings and whether their position is truly adverse to that of defendants. Crescent Park Tenants Ass'n v. Realty Eq. Corp. of N.Y. , 58 N.J. 98, 107-108 (1971). As recently explained by our Supreme Court in Home Builders League of South Jersey Inc. v. Berlin Tp. , 81 N.J. 127 (1979):
These prerequisites are inherently fluid and "in cases involving substantial public interest * * * 'but slight private interest, added to and harmonizing with the public interest' is sufficient to give standing." Elizabeth Federal
It added that the Legislature has expressed the public interest in cases such as these by defining an "interested party" in the Municipal Land Use Law as "any person, whether residing within or without the municipality, whose right to use, acquire, or enjoy property is or may be affected by any action taken under this act * * *." N.J.S.A. 40:55D-4. Also see, Urban League of Essex Cty. v. Mahwah Tp. , 147 N.J. Super. 28 (App.Div.1977) certif. den. 74 N.J. 278 (1977).
The trial judge correctly resolved the issue of standing with respect to state constitutional issues in plaintiffs' favor.
On the cross-appeal the individual plaintiffs assert that the trial judge erred in denying them standing to argue violations of the 13th and 14th Amendments of the United States Constitution and violations of the Civil Rights Act of 1968, also known as the Fair Housing Act, 42 U.S.C.A. § 3601 et seq. In ruling as he did the trial judge applied principles formulated in Warth v. Seldin , 422 U.S. 490, 95 S. Ct. 2197, 45 L. Ed. 2d 343 (1975). For reasons which we explained in Urban League of Essex Cty. v. Mahwah Tp., supra , 147 N.J. Super. at 33-34, this was error. New Jersey courts are not bound by federal rules of standing. The rights asserted by the individual plaintiffs could only have arisen under 42 ...