Skip to comments.Great Haven for Families, but Don't Bring Childre
Posted on 08/13/2003 12:42:18 AM PDT by bd476
OPATCONG TOWNSHIP, N.J. Everyone agrees that this recently rural township, its sleepy streets fringed by old farms, is a fine place to rear children. And in just a few years, hundreds of children have arrived, each like an invoice addressed to taxpayers.
Now the town faces another expense, the legal defense of a new ordinance that will, in effect, keep down the number of families moving in. The courts will decide whether the restriction, limiting new multifamily housing units to two bedrooms, crosses a fine line between zoning meant to slow galloping development and zoning meant to keep out families with children.
The situation in this town, where enrollment in the town's only elementary school has almost doubled since 1995, illustrates a tension deeply felt in fast-growing areas from here to California as the cost of education turns the social logic of the suburbs upside down. Havens for families are expensive to run, and many of the people who run them are trying to draw childless couples, single people, retirees anybody but children.
"It shows that the economics of the suburbs are out of phase with the original purpose of the suburbs," said Robert Fishman, a professor of urban planning at the University of Michigan and the author of "Bourgeois Utopias" (Basic Books, 1989), a history of suburban growth.
That purpose was to take women and children out of the "morally corrupt environment" of rough industrial cities, Professor Fishman said. "It's still to an amazing degree the cultural assumption that this green, open environment is a better place to raise children."
But the cost of educating children, not a huge concern even in the postwar Levittown decade, now exceeds what their parents' houses yield in taxes. As school costs rise, "people get more desperate about it," said Myron Orfield, a law professor at the University of Minnesota and the author of "American Metropolitics: The New Suburban Reality" (Brookings Institution, 2002).
The local governments' first line of defense, Professor Orfield said, is simply to fend off housing. "They aren't providing land for housing, especially apartment buildings. Everyone's zoning for commercial buildings. In California, auto malls are king. In New Jersey, commercial office parks are the most valuable things."
The federal Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination against people with children. But restrictions that have that effect but are meant to accomplish something else are usually lawful.
Some communities that may not want to increase their school-age population can embrace the elderly. That is socially acceptable, and because the federal Fair Housing Act allows senior-citizen developments to prohibit younger residents, it is legally acceptable. The fast-growing western suburbs of Boston, for example, are scrambling for developments with age restrictions and otherwise engaging in what one legislator calls "vasectomy zoning." Naperville, Ill., outside Chicago, is imposing restrictive covenants on some new developments to prohibit sales to people under 55.
Edward J. Blakely, dean of the management school at New School University and co-author of "Fortress America: Gated Communities in the United States" (Brookings Institution, 1999), said some communities are limiting times when children can be on streets or putting prohibitions on skateboards and roller skates "because it supposedly does damage to the sidewalks."
In the development corridors of central and northwestern New Jersey, many towns have adopted minimum lot sizes of 5 or 10 acres.
Patrick O'Keefe, the chief executive officer of the New Jersey Builders Association, said, "The idea is both to inflate the price of what will be built and to diminish the amount that will be built."
In the fast-growing Jersey Shore area, Ocean County has attracted scores of developments for retirees. Ventnor, a shore town that sends its high school students to Atlantic City, at a cost of $12,000 a year each, recently started offering owners of apartment buildings $22,000 to convert year-round rentals to seasonal.
Ventnor has set aside $200,000 in incentive money. Mayor Tim Kreischer pointed out that if two high school students ended up elsewhere for four years, "there's half your $200,000 right there."
(Excerpt) Read more at nytimes.com ...
Hey... a solution for California! Everyone with school age children living in California move to this sleepy rural township in New Jersey.
Hmmm? Right, I said New Jersey. Deal with it, or seal your own unfriendly borders.
"The federal Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination against people with children"
"the federal Fair Housing Act allows senior-citizen developments to prohibit younger residents, it is legally acceptable."
What a bunch of Orwellian bs! Fair Housing Act my ass.
Surely you've seen legislation and government regulations that go on and on.
Exactly. Then again, it's New Jersey. Amazing how this story made me forget California's quagmire for a few minutes.
There's the problem - the uncontrolled growth of school spending. Does anyone believe schools are better today than they were in Levittown(s)?
Get the government out of education, and the problem is solved.
If you want to ruin a perfectly good program let the government take it over.
If you REALLY want to screw it up, assign it to a committee.
Now that's a good one--zoning for sterility...
I do not believe that the planning is solely for limiting school taxes--I've seen too much child-hatred by seniors at close range. Specifically, living near a semi-resort area. These seniors also drag in lots of illegals to mow their golf courses--and these illegals bring lots of kids to stress the school systems.
The seniors who are still vigorous can't stand kids, but there's a different tune when they hit the nursing homes. Then when you trot in a crew of Sunday School kids, they weep for the visiting children to talk to them and give them a hug...
Precisely. There's absolutely no reason why educating children should cost so much.
It would be a start.
However, the planned two bedroom limit sounds familiar - maybe China's "one child per family" law?
Well at least they leave. (grin)