Plaintiffs in Warth v. Seldin were early victims of the Burger Court's plan to close the federal courts to those seeking relief from the unconstitutional action of state or local public officials.1 That case involved a challenge to the exclusionary zoning practices of the town of Penfield, a suburb of the city of Rochester, New York. The metropolitan Rochester area, like others throughout the country, was rapidly becoming a segregated society in which the black citizens lived in a central city surrounded by virtually all-white suburbs. In 1970, for example, 95 percent of the black population in Monroe County (which included Rochester and Penfield) lived in the city, while less than a fraction of 1 percent lived in the suburban Penfield.2
In that year a housing study of Monroe County concluded that there was great need for low-and moderate-income housing units, and it stressed the responsibility of suburban towns to accept their fair share. It found that these towns had blocked attempts to build such housing in large part because of racial prejudice.
The complete rejection by suburban communities of all low and moderate income housing is testimony to the severity of the problem of prejudice involved. While many community groups and agencies--as well as individual citizens--have been working for open housing, their