Prince William County wants the General Assembly to allow them to raise the fines for “overcrowded homes.” The county is asking that the fines against landlords be increased from $100 per day to $2500 per day.

“It is a reflection just in general of housing prices in the region and a lack of rented space,” Chairman Sean Connaughton (R-at large), said on Wednesday. “We’d like to see higher penalties when violations are uncovered.”

Isn’t that a mean-spirited way of dealing with the lack of affordable housing?

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37 responses to “Mean-Spirited?”

  1. James Young Avatar
    James Young

    Will, I would contest your suggestion that this is “mean-spirited.” Penalties must be effective, and my impression is that this targets exploitive landlords.

  2. Jim Bacon Avatar

    No one would confuse me with a weepy-eyed liberal. But it seems clear to me that this initiative doesn’t target just landlords, it targets the poor. Let’s face it, very few people are building “affordable” housing in the United States today. The housing market is the ultimate example of trickle-down economics. Poor people move into houses that the working and middle classes vacate. And they generally are willing to tolerate conditions that we consider “overcrowded.” To them, living two or three to a bedroom is better than the alternative: sleeping on a heating grate somewhere.

    By fining landlords, Prince William County is effectively eliminating this housing option for poor people. When told that the poor had no bread, Marie Antoinette said, “Let them eat cake.” When told that the poor have no houses to live in, modern-day Virginians seem to be saying, “Let them live in a hotel.”

  3. Anonymous Avatar

    One issue that has come up in Northern Virginia is the increasing volume of MS-13 acticity. One of the trademarks of their pattern is that they enable illegal immigrants to migrate to an area, setting up homes with multiple families crowded in, and then exploit those immigrants. This gives the authorities more of a hammer to try and break up those kinds of activities, which quickly reestablish themselves elsewhere when the authorities shut them down.

  4. Will Vehrs Avatar
    Will Vehrs

    James, I was posing a question, not suggesting that I thought it was “mean-spirited.” Remember how that word was used in the last campaign on a law enforcement issue that impacted a segment of the same population that this proposed measure would impact, albeit indirectly.

  5. Mitch Cumstein Avatar
    Mitch Cumstein

    I see nothing mean-spirited about this. If the laws and zoning ordinances make this practice illegal, then fines should be stiff enough to make do so cost prohibitive. Housing and land-use planning are what allow counties and communities to make proper use of resources. When individuals intentionally attempt to circumvent those plans for their own gain, in direct opposition to the needs of the rest of the community, they should be held accountable.

    Affordable housing is, of course, an area of concern throughout Northern Virginia. Interestingly enough, the article linked to here states that Fairfax Co. is attempting to raise these fines as well. So, both the problem and proposed solution are not limited strictly to Prince William.

    That “Prince William County is effectively eliminating this housing option for poor people” is absolutely appropriate, because it shouldn’t be an “option” in the first place. That the County does show concern for affordable housing is commendable. It should not, however, be under any obligation whatsoever to do so to the detriment of those who choose to pay market-rate prices for housing.

    As a homeowner in PWC, I could certainly buy a larger home if I chose to move several exits down I-95. Many friends and family members have made that choice. I haven’t and won’t and am fortunate enough to be able to afford my modest home in the County of my choice. For those that can’t, legal and affordable options are available close by.

    As far as I’m concerned, living in free and market-based society means not that we all have the right to live wherever we want, but that we have the right to live where we can afford to.

  6. It’s mean spirited in comparison to the fine that political candidates receive for sending out bogus campaign messages ($100) per violation I believe. We all know what I am talking about.

    It’s true localities don’t have much authority when it comes to things like campaign violations but this should send a clear signal to the GA that various “fines” need revising.

    Again, we are dealing with the Dillion Rule and the obvious need for the GA to return more power to localities.

  7. Will Vehrs Avatar
    Will Vehrs

    Is the Dillon rule good or bad here, el moderado? Do we want Fairfax and Prince William to fine $2500, but Stafford fines $100?

    Just asking. Would giving more power and hence more leeway to localities create a race to the bottom or the top? Are variations according to the whims of local politicians better or worse than one size fits all from state politicians?

  8. Anonymous Avatar

    You do realize who we are talking about here, who crams 40 people into a three bedroom house — illegal aliens. Getting rid of them was the Bacon’s Rebellion theme song just one short month ago.

  9. Anonymous Avatar

    I think it is completely mean-spirited. It doesn’t take a liberal to feel for these people. It only takes a human!

    If the offenders are illegals then deal with them through appropriate channels but not all of them are. Do you really think anyone wants to live this way? How are they circumventing land-use planning for their own gain? Saying that people only have the right to live where they can afford is ok if you are referring to someone that can afford to live in a decent neighborhood. Folks that are living in these conditions have chosen this in lieu of living in the projects, on the street, or maybe they’re “bunking in” like many of our adult children while they try to save for a downpayment on a house in your comfy neighborhood.

    Many of us are only a few paychecks away from their plight. God forbid anything catastrophic should come your way but if it did would you rather move in with your sisters, brothers, aunts and uncles and be overcrowded or would you be the one to move your wife and family to Gilpen court so you don’t offend any market-rate-paying homeowners?

    Instead of forcing landlords to boot these people out into the street, why not show them how to obtain this “legal and affordable option” that is “available close by”.

    The “haves” should be very careful about looking down their noses at the “have-nots”. If you are middle class America, you should note that the gap between you and low class America is closing. Many in the middle class can no longer afford housing, health care and education. How long will it be until you become the have-not?

    It wasn’t too many years ago that many Virginia families had 5, 10, 15 children and a few boarders. Of course they all lived in the same house. Many remain in the family home throughout their entire life along with Grandma, Grandpa, Aunt Susie and Uncle George. What’s the difference?

    Family, or no family, I’d rather they live together and make ends meet than live off of the welfare system!

  10. In this situation, The Dillon Rule is bad. Leave it up to the localities.

    If Fairfax and Prince William want to fine $2500 then let them. If everyone starts piling into houses in Stafford County then they will have to raise the fine – let the market determine that. It would, however, result in a race to the top (higher fines), particularly in metropolitan areas.

    John Jenkins idea of redefining “household” and “family” is a good start. However, it wouldn’t go very far because they could still only implement a $100 fine unless the approval is granted by the GA.

    I would still like to see the fine raised for bogus campaign material. Can we get that in the packet?

  11. Mitch Cumstein Avatar
    Mitch Cumstein

    “How are they circumventing land-use planning for their own gain?”

    The fines are targeted at the homeowner who is allowing multiple familes to rent/live in single-family homes, not necessarily the individual occupants. In cases such as this, the homeowner is breaking laws and ordinances designed for the benefit of the community at-large.

    The point is that these communities are planned to accomodate a certain number of occupants. Roads, schools and public utilities are allocated based on that planning. If you’re willing to simply turn a blind eye to this type of practice, why not disregard zoning in the first place? Why bother with keeping residential areas away from heavy commercial and industrial areas?

    Zoning and land-use regulations are one of the pillars of successful communities. Affordable housing is important and should be explored and implemented to the extent that it fits in with an overall economic and infrastructure plan. In any event, under no circumstances should anyone be permitted to actively and intentionally disregard these regulations. To do so puts the entire community at risk.

  12. Jim Bacon Avatar

    Anonymous 2:19. You said, “Getting rid of [illegal aliens]was our theme song just one short month ago.”

    True enough. The point you appear to miss, however, is that I have a problem with people coming into this country illegally. That doesn’t mean I believe in abusing them once they’re here.

    There has been some very interesting commentary in this thread. The idea of limiting the number of occupants in a house precludes a lot of things, not just piles of illegal aliens living together. Potentially, it precludes family members moving in together during hard times. Potentially, it precludes multiple generations of a family from living together. I don’t see the justification for that.

  13. Anonymous Avatar

    Turning a blind eye is not the solution nor was it my suggestion. Help the people find the affordable housing if there is any. If there isn’t, then make it happen before you go forcing them to the street.

    It doesn’t matter who the fine is aimed at. The loser is the person who is renting the living space.

    What about the old lady who doesn’t want to lose her home? Is it wrong for her to have a few borders to help pay the mortgage and help out around the house? What about the two young couples that share a home in the burb because they don’t want to live in the city? What about the single guy who wants to go to college so he boards in local house where the rent is cheaper, is that wrong too? There are many reasons for the boarder situation not just illegals and evil landlords trying to ruin your way of life.

    Are we really talking about enough boarders living in one community that it truly upsets the roads, schools and utilities? What if one of these landlords sold the home to someone that had 10 kids? Wouldn’t that have the same result?

    I just can’t warm up to the idea of government making a law that tells me who can live in my home. If you are aiming at illegals then enforce the laws against illegals. If you are aiming at landlords who are providing unsatisfactory living quarters, then get the health department (or whoever you call). But don’t make a law that tells me I can’t allow my cousin and her family to live in my home if I want to!

  14. Mitch Cumstein Avatar
    Mitch Cumstein


    “Potentially, it precludes family members moving in together during hard times. Potentially, it precludes multiple generations of a family from living together.”

    In the article linked above, it specifically states that the law allows blood relatives to share a home:

    “Currently, the county zoning ordinance states that homes may be occupied by people related by blood or marriage, plus all biological, adopted, foster and step-children and no more than two boarders.

    Alternatively, no more than three unrelated adults can share a home together. The ordinance contains exceptions for disabled residents and citizens protected by the Virginia Fair Housing Act.

    If the county approves the change, the new ordinance would be similar to that of Manassas, which limits occupancy to a head of household and his or her spouse, siblings, children, grandchildren and grandparents.”

    The point is to keep multiple, non-related individuals/families from circumventing the law. The fact that Supervisors from both sides of the aisle support this speaks volumes about its fairness and appliciability.

  15. Anonymous Avatar

    Besides the community maintenance problems, there is a real issue involving public safety. Prince William County has seen an upswing of fires related to the conversation of single family homes into mini-apartment buildings. These homes were not built to house some many people or with adequate fire protection. Fires have broken out due to the use of space heaters, stoves, etc., because a signel family electrical system cannot handle these loads. The amazing thing is that this is happening in brand-new $700,000 homes because they are bigger, have multiple bathrooms and are easier to subdivide internally because the fire codes require multiple ingress/egress points. People are buying these homes for the sole purpose of converting them to boaring houses. This is why Prince William wants to go down hard on the property owners.

  16. Jim Bacon Avatar

    Mitch, thanks for clarifying the picture. If the law specifically permits extended family members to reside together, and even allows people to take in a couple of boarders, my major objections are taken care of…. I do have to say, though, I do recall starting my career as a wage slave working for the Martinsville Bulletin and sharing a small house with three other reporters. If the PWC law had applied, we would have been illegal. We would have been hard pressed to find comparable accomodations!

  17. Jim- The ordinance would actually allow unrelated adults to live together, so long as the number of people does not exceed the design standard for the house. Any single family house or townhouse can handle four residents safely, so you would have been OK. If it were you and 20 buddies, THEN there would be a problem, and that is part of what we are dealing with in Prince William County.

    Very early on Christmas Morning of 2002, a fire broke out in a single family, two story home in Prince William that was the residence of 20-some people. Four little kids died in the fire from inhalation because they couldn;t get out fast enough.

    The problem isn’t four buddies splitting the rent; the problem is four buddies, their wives, their cousins and all of their kids splitting the rent.

  18. Anonymous Avatar

    the new ordinance would be similar to that of Manassas, which limits occupancy to a head of household and his or her spouse, siblings, children, grandchildren and grandparents

    I hope I never have to move my family to Manassas or Prince William. Our family includes five generations all living in one very large home. Included in that number are spouses that are not blood-related to the head of household and from time to time, friends that need our help. We are blessed to enjoy each other every day. We don’t send our old to nursing homes and we don’t send our babies to daycare. We share the bills, the chores, the good and bad. This is what I consider family! Are we out committing crimes? Absolutely not! Are we disturbing the neighbors? No way! Are we causing the home values in our area to go down? Nope! There are valid reasons to allow non-related family members in a “family”.

    I still think the situations you spoke of could be handled by enforcing the health laws, fire code laws, etc. without government deciding who my “family” should include.

  19. In my Alexandria neighborhood there are several instances of multiple persons living in one home, and some of these have caused unsightly conditions that I believe are detrimental to property values.

    Over time, most of these situations have improved (people saved money and moved out, additional off-street parking was added, unsightly conditions repaired.)

    All of these cases involved property owners and not renters. I’d still rather live in that kind of community than a gated community with a rigid homeowners association.

    Over time I have become acquainted with these people and I have (now) no problems with them. What I once thought was a threat and a nuisance turns out to be my new neighbors.

    I read that Fairfax is going to create 25,000 jobs and 6700 new homes, this year. Naturally buildesw will paly to the upper end of the market if that is whaere the money is. But if we don’t get off the builders backs, they will never create enough homes for competition and trickle down to take effect.

    My own experience in building in Fairfax was a horror show, AND FOR NO GOOD REASON. I came away from the experience with the distinct impression that my building problems could have been solved wit the appropriate bribes.

    Clearly, gross overcrowding and safety issues are a problem. Having unrelated persons live together should not be designated to be a problem, absent other nuisance issues. I don’t see that we can solve our housing problems until we get off the builders backs. However, too much density is no different from individual home overcrowding and just as undesirable.

    How much is too much density? It seems to me that it is similar to the issue of exceeding a home’s design standard. Whehter it is residence overcrowding or too much density, the issue is a lack of, or insufficient, or poorly constructed, infrastructure.

    Like Jim, I have lived in group houses. I don’t see a problem, absent other nuisance (or criminal) conditions.

    Let’s keep this issue to one of safety and health, and instead of fining them, let’s offer to help solve, and even fund, the obvious problems these people have. Seems to me that is better than segregating and alienating them.

  20. Jim Bacon Avatar

    It’s amazing what happens when you find out more information. What seemed clear to me in my first post — that the initiative was targeting poor people — is not so clear after all. PWC is justified in enforcing regulations when the number of occupants exceeds the design capacity of a house and creates unsafe conditions.

    Still, poor people in Virginia need a place to live. And, when no one is building housing for them, the only choice they have is to live in more crowded conditions. The difference between now and 100 years ago is that the “tenements” aren’t row houses but single-family dwellings.

  21. Anonymous Avatar

    It’s an interesting dilemma in Virginia. It seems that Virginia is doing anything it can to bring big mega-business in. These big companies don’t mind oursourcing to other countries and they don’t mind bringing in cheap labor for those contracts that stipulate “no services out of the country”. It seems anything is ok as long as the bottom line is about saving money. The weird thing is, while they don’t mind having these low paid employees working for them, they don’t want them living in “their” neighborhoods. Maybe the business owners could all come together and create a “neighborhood” for their employees. Instead of outcasting these people, embrace them. You want cheaper laborers? They stand on the corner looking for work. Go get em’. Train them for whatever you need. These are some of the hardest working humans in the universe. They came a long way to get here just to work! I’m not talking about illegals, I’m not talking about a slum. I’m suggesting a decent, safe environment where these folks can live among people that share their own customs and not feel like outcasts. Businesses could have more reliable employees, contractors would have more work, overcrowding in upper-class neighborhoods would diminish, crime would go down, etc. Seems like a win-win situation to me.

    I’m no supporter of bringing in cheap labor or outsourcing. I think it’s killing the American economy but if Virginia is going to allow it, why not allow it in a decent way?

    Didn’t AOL have a housing area or something like that in Norhtern Virginia?

  22. I think we tried company stores and company towns once before: there is such a thing as too much vertical integration.

    Otherwise, I think you are right. When one of my neighbors said he couldn’t get good help, I suggested he learn Spanish or offer more money, or both.

    People tend to want to live among their own kind, but should not be forced to live among their own kind.

    I’ll say it again. The main reason there is not affordable housing is because we have made it near impossible to build any housing, or even businesses in some cases. There are too many people who think they are stakeholders and want to have a say against whatever it is they don’t like.

    Only the major builders can get past the buiding requirements, and they have no incentive to build to any requirement that is not in the code. Where an individual might recognize that he is going to become an empty nester and plan for a home to be split up later, he is prohibited from building, and probably prohibited from having two kitchens. In some places this rule is avoided by designing a house in three or four sections or wings and with a single communal kitchen.

    The kind of development we have is on account of the rules we have made: there is little room for creativity whether it is in the form of New Urbanism or anything else. At least in Fauquier they recently relaxed the rules for additional family residences on a single lot. It is not much, but it is a start.

  23. Ray – You’re right on target with this, and all the excuses for enforced occupancy limits ring hollow.

    There’s more than enough (far more than needed) code, ordinances and regulation if the conditions are unsafe, unsanitary, harboring crime, or harmful to the community. In case of harm, civil suits are a remedy.

    This type of regulation is mean-spirited, and the proof’s in the pudding. Today’s Washington Post has the details of refugees from Hurricane Katrina being evicted. Law doesn’t get more malicious.

    Occupancy limits are simply spiteful and exclusionist, a form of class snobbery, and the new segregation for bigots.

  24. Interesting exchange here. If these ordinances were all about health and safety, we’d see an occupancy limit tied directly to objective standards (people per bathroom, square foot per person/child, cars per household) that would be enforced regardless of family status.

    Note here, however, that the ordinances at issue are not occupant neutral. An unmarried couple with children (not in common) would be treated differently than a married couple. A gay couple with their parents and siblings living with them would be treated differently than a married heterosexual couple with their parents and siblings living with them. Five retarded men living together would be treated differently than a man and wife and three grown children.

    When you walk into a ballroom at a hotel you’ll see on the wall a sign with a posted occupancy limit that is based on health and safety concerns, including fire safety. We wouldn’t tolerate a rule that established a different occupancy limit for gatherings of families vs. gatherings of singles there, would we?

    Peel back the first layer of these ordinances and it is clear that they are thinly veiled efforts to push certain groups out of neighborhoods (e.g., the disabled living with unrelated people, gay people who are prohibited from marrying and then sanctioned for not having a legal relationship, poor people needing to live together to afford housing and ethnic groups who by reason of culture or economics bringing multiple generations together in a single household).

    The recent fires in Prince William do illustrate a real safety concern arising from overcrowding. But, so do fires where it is discovered that there were no smoke detectors in the home and people died who could have gotten out if smoke detectors were present. Do we have a law/ordinance requiring private homeowners to buy and install smoke detectors? No. So, why would fires illustrating the dangers of overcrowding lead necessarily to occupancy limits?

    As to the activities of the gangs, there will be human trafficking laws introduced in the next session of the General Assembly that will strengthen the ability of law enforcement to deal with those who “exploit” immigrants, regardless of documentation, making them live in deplorable conditions and work without compensation.

    If there’s a real problem here, let’s attack the criminal activites directly and the people who exploit others for financial gain, and not attack people who are simply trying to make ends meet or to live their lives in families that don’t match the definition of a “traditional American family.”

  25. Deal With It Avatar
    Deal With It

    I guess this comment will get lost in all the chatter but someone needs to talk about it a little.

    Look there’s one heck of a housing shortage in Prince William. But its made worse by restrictive zoning policies in the western part of that county. Single family residential development is limited to large acreage. Multifamily development is discouraged. The population is there but they refuse to deal with it.

  26. Anonymous Avatar

    Owners convicted for crowded homes
    December 11, 2005

    Three property owners in Herndon have been convicted of permitting excessive occupancy in single-family homes.
    Two of the owners pleaded guilty and one was found guilty Wednesday in Fairfax County General District Court. The court proceedings followed a lengthy investigation into resident complaints that the homes were being used as illegal boardinghouses.
    The town revised its zoning ordinances in 2003 to allow for criminal prosecution for such a violation, a misdemeanor.
    Community inspector David H. Pace said the investigation showed each home appeared to have at least 10 occupants, including several who were unrelated and paying various amounts of rent to the owners.
    “This is not a story about families with little or no income that are struggling to pay their monthly mortgage,” he said. “This type of activity demonstrates a clear, criminal intent to benefit from illegally overcrowding a residence and using it as a boardinghouse.”
    Mrs. Marcia Garcia, of Reston, was identified as the owner of a residence in violation in the 400 block of Virginia Avenue. Garcia pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 12 months of unsupervised probation and fined the maximum $1,000, all of which was suspended.
    Eduardo Murcia, of Herndon, was identified as the owner of a residence in violation in the 300 block of Missouri Avenue. Murcia was sentenced to 12 months of unsupervised probation and fined $1,000, with $900 suspended.
    Jose D. Aguirre Portillo, of Herndon, was identified as the owner of the residence in violation in the 1000 block of Jeff Ryan Drive. Portillo was sentenced to 12 months of unsupervised probation and fined $1,000, with $500 suspended.

  27. Anonymous Avatar

    15 People Displaced From Crowded Home in Mont. County
    Sunday December 11, 2005 1:41pm

    Aspen Hill, Md. (AP) – Fifteen people have been displaced from a home in Aspen Hill after a fire broke out in the basement this morning.

    Montgomery County (website – news) fire and rescue spokesman Pete Piringer says the fire started around 10:00 this morning in the 13200 block of Keating Street when fumes from a flammable cleaning solution got too close a water heater in the basement.

    A man who was cleaning the floor in the basement when the fire caught has been taken to a burn unit at a local hospital to be treated for second and third degree burns.

    Piringer says the house has several fire and house code violations, including an illegal apartment in the basement and no smoke alarms.

    In all, the fire caused about $ 25,000 in damages.

  28. Anonymous Avatar

    Let’s be honest here. The problem isn’t the average family taking in an older relative or a newly fired/divorced grown child with grandkids. What we are seeing here is the result of businesses and some individuals privatizing the profits to be gained by using “cheap – often illegal – labor” while socializing its true cost by passing it on to the community at large and to certain neighborhoods.

    Local and state governments are finding that they are being swamped by having to provide K-12 schooling for these immigrants’ children. Hospitals are being hit hard for unpaid health care at clinics and ER’s and they too pass these costs on. The overcrowded housing is a quality of life cost, and, believe me, these overcrowded houses are NOT in the neighborhoods of the folks turning the profit by exploiting these workers. If they paid a decent wage, they would quickly find that there are already people in the country who will work those jobs, but they can’t afford to work for what these guys will pay, in part because they don’t want to share a single family house with 3 other families or 20 other guys.

    The people are getting tired of their lives being turned upside down and having the blls sent to them and are starting to fight back. I say good for them.

    As for “mean-spirited” look at it this way: We could solve the homeless problem overnight by simply assigning a homeless person or family to any prosperous citizen who has spare room at their house and a little extra cash to pay for their upkeep. Are we being “mean-spirited” by not doing this? No? So why should we trash middle and working class neighborhoods to provide businesses with “cheap labor”?

    If you wouldn’t tolerate flop houses in your neighborhood then you shouldn’t OK them for other peoples’ neighborhoods. It’s mean-spirited.

  29. This is a good thread with many salient points. Anonymous 10:18 raises the issue of spreading the costs fairly, Deal with It pipes up on stupid zoning, Safety is an issue and so apparently is non-traditional families.

    When I found out how much it costs to keep an inmate in prison my thought was Good Lord, give me a couple of inmates and that much money and I’ll take care of the inmates and none of us will need to steal.

    Maybe if we had to look the semi-homeless in the face and break bread with them we would all be better off and not so afraid. consider it a kind of Jury duty.

  30. Anonymous Avatar

    Anonymous 10:18,

    I don’t think any of us want to allow trashing of neighborhoods or flop houses. We certainly don’t want to allow gang members and illegals. And no one wants anyone to be living in unsafe conditions. My complaint is with the proposed ordinance change that may be aimed at these kinds of people but could be used to keep many families from being able to live in these neighborhoods. There are plenty of laws already on the books that can be used to effectively handle these situations.

    This is especially important to me in today’s economy where people are trying to find ways to live in decent, safe neighborhoods on incomes that just aren’t keeping up with the pace of housing and health care costs.

  31. Anonymous Avatar

    This is Anonymus 10:18 writing.

    I agree with you that we shouldn’t have to pass laws that punish unoffending people in order to get to the problem here: vast third world, often illegal, immigration into a first world environment for the benefit of businesses who want “cheap labor” and to the detriment of average working people who pay the price, monetarily and in quality of life; but the sad truth is that our national government – where this issue could and should be addressed – is failing us miserably from President Bush on down. They should control this invasion but they don’t. This leaves state and local governments, which tend to be closer to the people, to deal with it the best they can. If it takes a local law that restricts how many unrelated people can live in a house to prevent flop houses that destroy communities, then I’m OK with that law.

    What are you doing to make sure that Virginia’s representatives are on top of this problem? has
    the voting records of both the Senate and House on this issue. Go there, check out our leadership, and build a fire under them! Warner D+ overall and D- recently; Allen, who’s up for re-election in 2006 and is Presidential timber (so they say) in 2008, C+ overall and C recently. Not too stellar, folks. Check out the individual votes on related issues.

    Business interests have overridden citizen interests and it’s time that citizens took back their representatives, their government, and their country. If it takes amending local zoning laws to stave off some of the worst violations for the time being, let’s do it.

  32. Anonymous Avatar

    Mr. Hyde, you sound like a nice fellow, but you are confusing people as individuals with massive amounts of people. Each individual driver on I-395 north at 7 AM on a Wednesday may be a fine and dandy person and a swell neighbor, parent, spouse, employee, etc to boot but collectively they are a nerve-wracking traffic jam.

    I lived for many years in a well managed apartment complex in Northern VA. In the late ’90’s we were inundated by immigrants, who probably at least doubled the density of occupation. Two BR units with one or two people were gradually replaced by units with 3, 4, 6 or more. What happened is that the management adhered to legal local occupancy rates when renting but the tenants simply added more people without clearing it with the rental office. Short of staging surprise inspections, it’s almost impossible to police this type of violation.

    The density quickly overwhelmed our parking, trash, and laundry facilities. Since people were there who had not been cleared, we also found ourselves in an increasingly crime prone area. My neighbor, a man in his late ’70’s, was the victim of a home invasion attempt. Previously we had at most an occasional car theft. Needless to say, we tenants from the old days moved out – at least those of us who could. As more of us left, more high-density tenants replaced us.

    The new tenants – at least the ones I met before I left – were perfectly fine people individually, but collectively they turned what had been a clean, safe, well managed community into an overcrowded, littered, physically dangerous slum. The last I heard, the owners’ solution was to turn the complex into “luxury” apartments or maybe condos, meaning that neither the previous tenants not the immigrants who replaced them can afford to live there. I know of two widows in their ’70’s who have lived there since within a year or so of when it opened over 30 years ago. Where will they go?

    Of course, the same thing would have happened if massive amounts of US citizens moved into the complex in the same pattern; but for over 25 years, this never happened. The Center for Immigration Studies notes in a December 2005 report that from January 2000 to March 2005, 7.9 million immigrants – nearly half of them estimated to be illegal – settled in the US. This is the highest 5 year period in our history. As we know Northern VA is a destination for many of the immigrants and affordable housing has been a problem there for years well before 2000.

  33. Anonymous Avatar

    If it takes amending local zoning laws to stave off some of the worst violations for the time being, let’s do it.

    After you pass the ordinance can you tell me which of my family members you would like for me to boot out? Let’s see, there are:

    Two 90 year old grandmothers. Both on medicare, both have prescription costs of at least $500-$1000 each month.

    There’s my parents who are both retired. Both were public servants for 30+ years. They are in their 70’s. Both medicare. They have thyroid problems, diabetes and high cholesterol along with other things older folks get. Their health care costs are increasing every year at a much quicker pace than their retirement incomes.

    There’s my daughter and her husband, both in their 20’s, working jobs that pay little more than minimum wage and no health insurance. They have a wonderful little boy who is 2 years old. He was a preemie and will need the same very expensive health care for chronic illnesses for the rest of his life. My son-in-law works days, my daughter works nights so she can also help out the older folks while I’m at work.

    There’s my cousin and her 2 young daughters. They lost their home and everything they owned in Katrina. No flood insurance. She has NOTHING. She works too. Minimum wage, no insurance.

    All that’s left are my teen-aged daughter, my husband and myself. We make decent money and alone could probably afford to live in your neighborhood. We pay for whatever medicare isn’t paying for along with other things like utility bills, groceries, etc.

    Our yard is immaculate, the older folks love to work outside. We have 3 cars. None of them are on jacks. None of us has ever committed a crime other than a few traffic violations when we were young and invincible. Everybody has their own room. Smoke detectors in every room of the house-even the bathrooms. We have picnics in the summer and invite our neighbors. We have Christmas parties and invite our neighbors and friends. We’re just an ordinary family making do. Am I whining? No way. I love my life!!

    Now, which of us should move to a nursing home or government housing because you want to create another ordinance you can’t afford to enforce?

    You won’t be able to blame this one on W.!

  34. Anonymous Avatar

    Well, first off, as I noted in my posting, the problem isn’t large families, even large extended families. What we are trying to prevent here are people running what almost amounts to a “doss house” in England in the late 19th century (Jack the Ripper Era), where you have numerous transients who pay by the week or even night to have a space to sleep with grossly overcrowded conditions and constantly rotating tenants. Nobody wants you to toss any of the 3 (or 4 counting yourself) grandmas into the street.

    Second, local zoning laws are fairly specific about extended family members being exempted. From what I read, everybody in your house is related to you and/or your husband by blood or marriage. Also these same zoning laws tend to take temporary conditions, especially if caused by disasters, into account. Even if your cousin and her children didn’t qualify by the above exemption, they would have at least a temporary grace period.

    Finally and, truthfully, beside the point, the fact that you and your extended family are exempt from the type of zoning laws I favor doesn’t mean that you are, in fact, living in a safe environment. Smoke detectors don’t prevent fires; they DETECT them after they have started. As any fire marshall could tell you, evacuating two 90 year olds, two 70 year olds, a chronically ill 2 year old, and possibly 2 other small children is a job that could be nearly impossible if a fire broke out in a house with 13 people (as I count) and their clothes, bedding, personal effects, furniture, etc. Still, that’s your decision – they’re YOUR family.

    You sound like a good, decent, kind, family-oriented person, I wish you nothing but the best.

  35. Lucy Jones Avatar

    You know, one thing that might help with the problem in NOVA is to get the word out to the rest of the state. Until I read in this string about the MS-13, I didn’t even know we had gangs in Virginia. I live east of Richmond. The only thing we hear on the news or see in the papers is “there could be gang-related incidents, watch for handsigns and certain colored clothes.” After I saw the MS-13 comment above, I looked around on the internet and found some articles about the problems in NOVA with MS-13 and other illegals. I am shocked that there are more than 5,000 gang members only a few hours away and I had no clue. I immediately had a good talk with my daughter about the signs and things to look for as suggested in the articles. She has never heard of the word “gang”. Sometimes it seems like NOVA is another state to us “down here in the country”. If we knew more about the problems, we could certainly help to push the votes and monies in your direction.

  36. Anonymous Avatar

    Actually, my father is the head of household so under the new definition of family in PWC:

    * My family – Out
    * Unmarried couples (whether gay or not) – Out
    * 5 Retarded Guys – Out
    * 2 old spinsters – Out
    * Families with nannies – Out

    * Traditional family with Mom, Dad and 2.2 kids – still welcome
    * Transients who pay by the week – still welcome
    * Single gang members who haven’t gotten arrested yet – still welcome

  37. Anonymous Avatar

    I went to Google and researched this as well as I could and I still think this restriction is not that bad. From what I gather, the propsed restriction is mainly as to what is considered blood relatives and it is close direct relatives. What it appears to be doing is not allowing syblings, counsins, aunts, uncles, etc The unrelated people and related by marriage seem to stay the same.

    If I am correct and IF the family doesn’t have any other surprises (I naturally assumed that the writer and her husband were the head of household since she asked whom she should toss out), then the only people who would be affected are the cousin and her 2 children. As I noted above, most local governments tend to allow some wiggle room for temporary residents as I assume these folks to be since they didn’t live with the writer until Katrina struck.

    I strongly doubt that PW will be more restrictive than Fairfax on unrelated people so 4 unrelated people will probably be a safe bet in PW as well as Fairfax.

    Therefore: Unmarried couples – gay or straight, 2 old spinsters, and a family with a nanny are OK. Five “retarded” guys may be out if they are not covered by the disability clause or if they are not a group home (covered under other laws) but 4 would be OK.

    Transients who pay by the week and unindicted gang members may be OK if only 4 of them are in a single-family house. What do you think the likelihood of that is?

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