Working for Smart Growth:
More Livable Places and Open Spaces

 

Land-Use Study Finds Increase in Exclusionary Zoning, Sprawl

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 7, 2011

CONTACT:
Tim Evans  (timevansatnjfuturedotorg)  , New Jersey Future (609) 393-0008 ext. 103
Adam Gordon  (adamgordonatfairsharehousingdotorg)  , Fair Share Housing Center (856) 665-5444
John Hasse  (hasseatrowandotedu)   or John Reiser  (reiseratrowandotedu)  , Rowan University (856) 256-4812 or (856) 256-4817
 
Municipal zoning in New Jersey has resulted in a land-use pattern that is substantially more exclusionary and more sprawling now than it was in 1970, a new study has found.

The study, titled Evidence of Persistent Exclusionary Effects of Land Use Policy within Historic and Projected Development Patterns in New Jersey, concluded not only that exclusionary zoning and sprawl development have worsened in the last four decades, but also that the preponderance of large-lot zoning in place today puts New Jersey on track to a future of further sprawl and housing segregation.

“By consuming practically all remaining residentially zoned land, large-lot subdivisions are locking in a residential land-use pattern that excludes many New Jersey households that cannot afford a large-lot single-family home,” the study concluded.

The study was conducted by Rowan University’s Geospatial Research Laboratory under a research contract with the Fair Share Housing Center and funded by a grant from the Fund for New Jersey.

The study found that the Fair Housing Act of 1985, which was intended to eliminate exclusionary zoning in accordance with the state Supreme Court’s Mount Laurel rulings, has made modest progress in promoting a mix of housing choices near jobs. Absent further enforcement of these rulings, however, together with stricter adherence to land-use practices consistent with the State Development and Redevelopment Plan, the study concluded that sprawl and housing segregation will worsen.

In addition to examining statewide trends, the report featured case studies of Monmouth and Somerset counties, illuminating poor coordination between job and housing locations, which will have negative consequences on the state’s economic recovery. The report concluded that if current zoning is followed, a large majority of future residential development in both counties will be large-lot subdivisions in even greater proportion than past patterns, and housing growth will lag far behind job growth.

Fair Share Housing Center Executive Director Kevin Walsh said the study shows that exclusionary zoning remains a major problem for the state’s economy and environment. “When a place like Somerset County zones for 16 times as many jobs as homes, the result is traffic gridlock from people driving long distances to work, destruction of farmland and forests, and racial and economic segregation,” Walsh said.

New Jersey Future Executive Director Peter Kasabach said he hoped the report would help focus renewed attention on the critical importance of state planning. “The Christie administration has been actively reviewing the state planning process with an eye toward developing a new strategic plan for how and where the state should invest and develop in the years ahead,” Kasabach said. “The findings in this report clearly demonstrate the need to redouble our efforts to rein in sprawl before it eats up what little remaining land we have left.”

Dr. John Hasse, professor of geography and director of environmental studies at Rowan University, said the overall pattern of residential development, despite some slight alteration attributable to Mount Laurel, has implications for future housing affordability, as well as for the sustainability of the state as a whole. “It is likely that the imbalance in housing densities and lack of coordination of jobs with housing would have been even worse had the Mount Laurel case and subsequent Mount Laurel policies not been followed,” Hasse said. “Still, the overarching objectives of the State Plan for fostering a sound planning process to meet the housing needs for all New Jersey residents has a long way go.”

Key findings of the report are highlighted below. Full report (PDF) .

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Evidence of Persistent Exclusionary Effects of Land Use
Policy Within Historic and Projected Development Patterns in New Jersey

Key Finding # 1: Zoning has resulted in a land-use pattern that is substantially more segregated and more sprawling now than it was in 1970

  •  New Jersey’s residential development has, contrary to the State Development and Redevelopment Plan, followed a sprawling pattern that reflects continued exclusionary zoning.
  • Since 1986, development patterns have shifted to have fewer acres dedicated to compact residential development and more acres dedicated to large-lot residential development.
  • A significant chunk of residential land (40 percent) within areas the State Plan has designated for growth is still occurring in large-lot subdivisions at densities of two homes per acre or less, which is highly inconsistent with the goals of the State Plan.
  • A remarkable amount of open space is being rapidly consumed by large-lot subdivisions, contrary to the State Plan’s call for development appropriate for rural areas and conservation of natural resources in these areas.
  • The predominance of large-lot residential subdivisions being produced by current policy is contrary to the objectives of the State Plan to foster a balanced mix of housing, sound land planning, conservation of natural resources and protection of the environment.

 Key Finding # 2: Jobs and housing are not well coordinated

  • There is a geographic and quantitative mismatch between jobs, reflected in commercial and industrial land uses, and housing within areas designated for growth in the State Plan.
  • The study demonstrated an overabundance of land zoned for commercial and industrial zoning, which would generate jobs, but far less zoning for apartment, townhouse and small-lot single-family home development, which would generate residential units for workers.
  • In the case study counties, a disproportionate amount of land zoned for commercial and industrial uses, as opposed to residential, yields a jobs-to-housing ratio of nearly 7:1 in Monmouth County and more than 16:1 in Somerset County. The ratio generally recognized as consistent with sound planning is 1½:1.

Key Finding # 3: Absent the Mount Laurel rulings, residential development would be even less compact and less coordinated with the location of jobs than current patterns indicate

  • While the evidence suggests that exclusionary housing patterns have been prevalent, it is likely that situation would have been worse if there had been no provisions for municipalities to consider affordable housing in their master planning process.
  • In Monmouth County, inclusionary compact development is in evidence in areas designated to fulfill Mount Laurel requirements. The largest single area of developable units of any kind exists in a single zone in Manalapan Township designated to fulfill a portion of the township’s Mount Laurel obligation. Similarly, areas of higher density along the Route 79 corridor in Marlboro reflect a development that was rezoned according to the township’s Mount Laurel plan.
  • Somerset County’s compact residential zones demonstrate the positive effect that Mount Laurel has had for providing small-lot housing options. In Franklin Township, the Laduree, Springhill and Society Hill at Franklin sites are zoned consistent with the township’s “fair share” housing plan. The single area with high-density zoning in Montgomery Township, Tapestry II, is a Mount Laurel inclusionary development. The Hills in Bernards and Bedminster Township, probably the county’s largest Mount Laurel development, is a significant high‐density zone, surrounded by lower‐density development.

Key Finding # 4: Policies that are in place today have put New Jersey on track to a future of further sprawl and housing segregation

  • By consuming practically all remaining residentially zoned land, large-lot subdivisions are locking in a residential land-use pattern that excludes many New Jersey households that cannot afford a large-lot single-family home.
  • The grossly unbalanced pattern of predominantly large-lot residential development and comparatively little compact development being imposed on the New Jersey landscape has implications for future affordability of housing, as well as for the sustainability of the state as a whole.

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