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Village of Belle Terre v. Boraas
Argued February 19–20, 1974
Decided April 1, 1974
Full case nameVillage of Belle Terre, et al., v. Bruce Boraas, et al.
Citations416 U.S. 1 (more)
94 S. Ct. 1536; 39 L. Ed. 2d 797; 6 ERC 1417
Case history
PriorAppeal from the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit
The police power is a valid basis for establishing residential zones that limit the number of unrelated individuals who may inhabit a dwelling.
Court membership
Chief Justice
Warren E. Burger
Associate Justices
William O. Douglas · William J. Brennan Jr.
Potter Stewart · Byron White
Thurgood Marshall · Harry Blackmun
Lewis F. Powell Jr. · William Rehnquist
Case opinions
MajorityDouglas, joined by Burger, Stewart, White, Blackmun, Powell, Rehnquist
Laws applied
U.S. Const. amend. XIV

Village of Belle Terre v. Boraas, 416 U.S. 1 (1974), is a United States Supreme Court case in which the Court upheld the constitutionality of a residential zoning ordinance that limited the number of unrelated individuals who may inhabit a dwelling.


A zoning ordinance in the Village of Belle Terre, New York restricted one-family dwellings to single family, which was defined as "[o]ne or more persons related by blood, adoption, or marriage, living and cooking together as a single housekeeping unit" or two people unrelated by blood or marriage.

The appellees leased a house zoned for single-family residential to a group of students at nearby State University at Stony Brook. The Village of Belle Terre then brought an order of eviction, claiming that the students did not constitute a family and so were excluded from that zoned area.

Prior history

The appellees sought declaratory judgment and an injunction declaring the ordinance unconstitutional. The district court held the ordinance constitutional, and the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit reversed.


The students and homeowner argued that (1) the ordinance interferes with a person's right to travel; (2) it interferes with the right to migrate to and settle within a state; (3) it bars people who are uncongenial to the present residents; (4) it expressed social preferences of the residents for groups that will be congenial to them; (5) social homogeneity is not a legitimate interest of government; (6) the restriction of those whom the neighbors do not like trenches on the newcomers' right to privacy; (7) it is not rightful concern to the villages whether the residents are married or unmarried; (8) the ordinance is antithetical to the egalitarian, open, and integrated ideology of the nation.


The Supreme Court held that the Belle Terre ordinance was a constitutional restriction on the use of land. It further held that the police power is a valid basis for establishing residential zones limiting the number of unrelated individuals that may inhabit a dwelling. In particular, the majority opinion cited the Palo Alto Tenants Union v. Morgan, a 1973 federal decision upholding density limits in zoning.

The Supreme Court held

Dissenting opinions

Justice Marshall dissented, arguing that

Justice Marshall went on to say

See also

Moore v. East Cleveland, 431 U.S. 494 (1977)


  1. ^ 416 U.S. 1, 19