Exclusionary Effects of Land Use Policy


This paper analyzes residential and non-residential land use development patterns that have occurred over a two decade period and projects these patterns into the future through buildout modeling, in order to gain insight into the effects of New Jersey’s current land management policies and the persistence of exclusionary zoning influences. The research explores these patterns, first historically on a state-wide basis, and then in a case study of two rapidly growing New Jersey counties, Monmouth and Somerset. The study evaluates recent land use trends using the New Jersey DEP Land Use/ Land Cover dataset, which provides a highly accurate inventory of land information spanning a time period for 1986 to 2007. The study then conducts a buildout analysis of future development trends based on existing zoning data for each case study county.

The findings suggest that: A) New Jersey’s residential development has, contrary to the State Plan, followed a low-density, sprawling pattern that reflects continued exclusionary zoning. B) Commercial and industrial land uses have been more consistent with the State Plan than residential, suggesting municipal zoning that welcomes retail and office development while discouraging high-density residential development. C) Many higher density zones that do exist are identifiably Mt. Laurel zones within Smart Growth areas. This suggests that absent Mt. Laurel, residential development would be even less dense and less coordinated with the location of jobs than current patterns indicate. D) Going forward, the case study counties are over-zoned for commercial and industrial development in terms of the number of jobs those areas may generate relative to the future housing that will be built under current zoning.

It is argued that the findings in these recent and projected future land use patterns in the Garden State are evidence that exclusionary zoning effects still persist. The predominance of large lot residential subdivisions which current policy is producing is contrary to the objectives of the New Jersey State Development and Redevelopment Plan to foster a balanced mix of housing, sound land planning, conservation of natural resources and protection of the environment. 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 ability to live near their jobs.

Download the Report

Final Report (PDF, 1MB)
Appendices B & C (PDF, 94KB) technical methods of buildout modeling employed

Interactive, animated maps of 21 years worth of land use data are available through our New Jersey Land Change Viewer.