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A family or a crowd?

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Filed: Citizen (apr) Country: Australia
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(posting the whole article because it's only a page...)

The Way We Live Now

A Family or a Crowd?

By CHRISTOPHER CALDWELL

Published: February 26, 2006

http://www.nytimes.com/2006/02/26/magazine/26wwln_lead.html

It wasn't surprising when, a couple of months ago, the city of Manassas, Va., set off a debate over how government should define "family." The Virginia suburbs of Washington are a relatively liberal part of a conservative state. If there were a corner of Virginia ready to do battle over whether the American family is an outdated myth, this would be it. But that was not what the city authorities were talking about.

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Janet Jarman/Corbis

Manassas has seen a rapid influx of immigrants over the last decade. As in suburbs and smaller cities elsewhere, this has created quality-of-life complaints. Sometimes the outrage is over the jornaleros who gather at Home Depots to solicit daywork. Elsewhere, the gripe concerns overcrowding. One 23-year-old Mexican told The Palm Beach Post a couple of years ago that he, too, thought 10 unrelated workers living in a two-bedroom apartment was too much. "Eight people — three in each bedroom and two in the living room — that should be the maximum," he said. This is the problem in Manassas.

When crowding becomes commonplace, neighborhoods change. Parking disappears, and mountains of trash appear on the sidewalk on collection day. Between June 2004 and June 2005, The Washington Post reported, Manassas used its zoning code to move 400 people out of crowded single-family houses. But complaints persisted that huge, multigenerational extended families, including distant and sometimes dubious cousins, were making virtual boardinghouses out of homes built for a couple and two kids.

Manassas could not change the rules on how much living space each resident requires; those are set by the state. But the city can regulate how buildings are used. So in early December, Manassas tightened its definition of the adjective "family" in terms like "single-family home." Whereas the old code defined "family" as pretty much any group of people related by blood or marriage, the new definition limited it to immediate relatives of the homeowner. Parents, children and siblings were family; uncles, cousins, nieces and nephews were not.

For decades, the family has been at the center of America's culture wars. Often, the quarrelers break into predictable camps. The traditionalist side takes the family for something natural, self-evident and unchanging, with certain absolute rights that no government can violate. The reformist side holds that the family is a "social construct" that is destined to change as individuals make choices and governments pass laws that reflect new mores.

But look now. The traditionalists are hoist with their own petard. When the real desiderata of American life — convenient parking and garbage-free sidewalks — are at stake, Joe Sixpack is as willing to meddle with the traditional family as are Heather's Two Mommies. And sheltering distant relatives in various kinds of trouble — the laid-off, the dropped-out, the pregnant — is what American (extended) families have always been for. The American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia, handed a rare opportunity to cast its foes as un-American, was planning to sue Manassas not just because it "targets families based on their nationality" but also for "an unconstitutional government infringement on the right of family members to live together." The new ordinance began to look like a losing hand. In January, the city repealed it.

But the battle may only be beginning. After all, the restrictive definition of family that was just drubbed in Manassas differs little from standard suburban operating procedure. In threatening Manassas with a lawsuit, the A.C.L.U. cited a 1977 Supreme Court decision that rejected an attempt to limit tenants to members of a nuclear family. "The tradition of uncles, aunts, cousins and especially grandparents sharing a household along with parents and children," wrote Justice Lewis Powell Jr., "has roots equally venerable and equally deserving of constitutional recognition." This is little help. Powell's words may be soaring enough to bully small-town politicians with, but they date from before the days of, for instance, covenanted child-free apartment complexes. The day-care industry, Medicaid and assisted living have all made the multigenerational family less desirable, less workable and less "normal." In short, no one in the Virginia case came up with an idea of the "single-family home" that possessed a sturdy internal logic.

Perhaps that means that, in Manassas and towns like it, it has lost its logic. The crisis in Manassas had two aspects. On the one hand, Latino immigrants do retain a robust esteem for the extended family, which many other Americans have fallen away from. On the other, whether legal or illegal, they crowd into these houses at least partly because they cannot afford to do anything else. There are now entire regions of the country — including parts of Northern Virginia — where there is no affordable traditional housing for those who work at, or near, the minimum wage.

Whether we think the purpose of families is producing babies, fostering love, tending the aged or protecting chastity, they have one thing in common. They are organized to address concrete problems, not to dispense utopian malarkey. Governments can kick problems down the road in a way that families cannot — whether the problem is a husband drinking his wages away or housing prices that have lost their apparent logical relation to hourly pay. The immigrants in Manassas are behaving like families in this sense. They are adapting their city's "single-family" housing stock to the realities of the labor market — with an indifference to government say-so that used to be called Yankee ingenuity.

****

I think this article is interesting for several reasons. What do you define as a 'family'? And how many people (related or non-) do you think is a reasonable number for a household...

Personally I'd think that two adults per bedroom plus two small children would be the maximum a two-bedroom apartment could handle. Otherwise two adults and three children... but I know a lot of people live in much more crowded conditions than that!


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(posting the whole article because it's only a page...)

The Way We Live Now

A Family or a Crowd?

By CHRISTOPHER CALDWELL

Published: February 26, 2006

http://www.nytimes.com/2006/02/26/magazine/26wwln_lead.html

It wasn't surprising when, a couple of months ago, the city of Manassas, Va., set off a debate over how government should define "family." The Virginia suburbs of Washington are a relatively liberal part of a conservative state. If there were a corner of Virginia ready to do battle over whether the American family is an outdated myth, this would be it. But that was not what the city authorities were talking about.

Skip to next paragraph

Enlarge This Image

Janet Jarman/Corbis

Manassas has seen a rapid influx of immigrants over the last decade. As in suburbs and smaller cities elsewhere, this has created quality-of-life complaints. Sometimes the outrage is over the jornaleros who gather at Home Depots to solicit daywork. Elsewhere, the gripe concerns overcrowding. One 23-year-old Mexican told The Palm Beach Post a couple of years ago that he, too, thought 10 unrelated workers living in a two-bedroom apartment was too much. "Eight people — three in each bedroom and two in the living room — that should be the maximum," he said. This is the problem in Manassas.

When crowding becomes commonplace, neighborhoods change. Parking disappears, and mountains of trash appear on the sidewalk on collection day. Between June 2004 and June 2005, The Washington Post reported, Manassas used its zoning code to move 400 people out of crowded single-family houses. But complaints persisted that huge, multigenerational extended families, including distant and sometimes dubious cousins, were making virtual boardinghouses out of homes built for a couple and two kids.

Manassas could not change the rules on how much living space each resident requires; those are set by the state. But the city can regulate how buildings are used. So in early December, Manassas tightened its definition of the adjective "family" in terms like "single-family home." Whereas the old code defined "family" as pretty much any group of people related by blood or marriage, the new definition limited it to immediate relatives of the homeowner. Parents, children and siblings were family; uncles, cousins, nieces and nephews were not.

For decades, the family has been at the center of America's culture wars. Often, the quarrelers break into predictable camps. The traditionalist side takes the family for something natural, self-evident and unchanging, with certain absolute rights that no government can violate. The reformist side holds that the family is a "social construct" that is destined to change as individuals make choices and governments pass laws that reflect new mores.

But look now. The traditionalists are hoist with their own petard. When the real desiderata of American life — convenient parking and garbage-free sidewalks — are at stake, Joe Sixpack is as willing to meddle with the traditional family as are Heather's Two Mommies. And sheltering distant relatives in various kinds of trouble — the laid-off, the dropped-out, the pregnant — is what American (extended) families have always been for. The American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia, handed a rare opportunity to cast its foes as un-American, was planning to sue Manassas not just because it "targets families based on their nationality" but also for "an unconstitutional government infringement on the right of family members to live together." The new ordinance began to look like a losing hand. In January, the city repealed it.

But the battle may only be beginning. After all, the restrictive definition of family that was just drubbed in Manassas differs little from standard suburban operating procedure. In threatening Manassas with a lawsuit, the A.C.L.U. cited a 1977 Supreme Court decision that rejected an attempt to limit tenants to members of a nuclear family. "The tradition of uncles, aunts, cousins and especially grandparents sharing a household along with parents and children," wrote Justice Lewis Powell Jr., "has roots equally venerable and equally deserving of constitutional recognition." This is little help. Powell's words may be soaring enough to bully small-town politicians with, but they date from before the days of, for instance, covenanted child-free apartment complexes. The day-care industry, Medicaid and assisted living have all made the multigenerational family less desirable, less workable and less "normal." In short, no one in the Virginia case came up with an idea of the "single-family home" that possessed a sturdy internal logic.

Perhaps that means that, in Manassas and towns like it, it has lost its logic. The crisis in Manassas had two aspects. On the one hand, Latino immigrants do retain a robust esteem for the extended family, which many other Americans have fallen away from. On the other, whether legal or illegal, they crowd into these houses at least partly because they cannot afford to do anything else. There are now entire regions of the country — including parts of Northern Virginia — where there is no affordable traditional housing for those who work at, or near, the minimum wage.

Whether we think the purpose of families is producing babies, fostering love, tending the aged or protecting chastity, they have one thing in common. They are organized to address concrete problems, not to dispense utopian malarkey. Governments can kick problems down the road in a way that families cannot — whether the problem is a husband drinking his wages away or housing prices that have lost their apparent logical relation to hourly pay. The immigrants in Manassas are behaving like families in this sense. They are adapting their city's "single-family" housing stock to the realities of the labor market — with an indifference to government say-so that used to be called Yankee ingenuity.

****

I think this article is interesting for several reasons. What do you define as a 'family'? And how many people (related or non-) do you think is a reasonable number for a household...

Personally I'd think that two adults per bedroom plus two small children would be the maximum a two-bedroom apartment could handle. Otherwise two adults and three children... but I know a lot of people live in much more crowded conditions than that!

i agree with you..but i have seen many many people living in a small apartment...


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Although I understand the concerns about overcrowding, lack of parking spots and garbage piling up, I am disturbed by how the desire for "comfort" is more important than family. I've always been sad to see the distances (physical, psychological and emotional) that keep American families apart. Maybe this is true not only in the US but in most "first world" countries. But to actually legislate something that tells families that they cannot live together is mind-boggling to me.


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But to actually legislate something that tells families that they cannot live together is mind-boggling to me.

Agreed.

US citizen sponsors frequently allow immigrant families to live with them so they can save money and get someplace nice. It's better than them starting off on their own in some POS neighborhood, especially if they have kids.

Some Americans simply do not appreciate the concept of a family. This is nothing more than an attack on the joint family by people who know nothing of family and are part and parcel of the moral decay of America.

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But to actually legislate something that tells families that they cannot live together is mind-boggling to me.

Agreed.

US citizen sponsors frequently allow immigrant families to live with them so they can save money and get someplace nice. It's better than them starting off on their own in some POS neighborhood, especially if they have kids.

Some Americans simply do not appreciate the concept of a family. This is nothing more than an attack on the joint family by people who know nothing of family and are part and parcel of the moral decay of America.

Awwwww.. DAMNIT! Now you went and made a good point I agree with :angry::P J/k. My wife finds it strange that I moved out of the house from my parents at 18 to work across the country at a job that barely paid anything decent, even for those times. She thought for a time that I actually disliked my family. Different cultures, and I don't think ours (North American) actually holds the better of it on this.


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on the flip side of that, the state and city laws that dictate how many people can live in the same house are set up for a reason. Health reasons, sanitary reasons, etc.

In our town, there is a set limit number of people that can live in a house. It is calculated by number of bedrooms (being defined as a room with a closet, and if that room is in a basement there has to be an egress window) and size of the bedrooms. Each is rated for a certain amount of people. It's actually quite lenient. My house is rated for 8 people. They say my bedroom is for 4 people and the two tiny tiny bedrooms are rated for 2 each. You go up to the housing department and pay for a permit and anyone living there must be on the permit. It does not matter if they are a relative or not.

There is a city in Missouri called Black Jack that has been on the news recently because their housing codes dictate that if you aren't married you aren't a family. There are couples with children that aren't married that are having to sell their homes and move out of the city. It's crazy.


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on the flip side of that, the state and city laws that dictate how many people can live in the same house are set up for a reason. Health reasons, sanitary reasons, etc.

Sorry, that's anti-family nonsense.

There is nothing inherently unsanitary about a large group of people living together. They just have to put in more effort to keep things clean.

If the true motive was to keep things clean/sanitary, the regulations would speak to that directly.

Instead, the regulations try to deter people from allowing their immigrant relatives to live with them. What's the message here? That "they" don't belong in nice neighborhoods and should go live in one of America's many POS neighborhoods? Sorry but my township can make any rule it wants. My family is going to live with me, as long as I can afford it.

And as long as they don't cut into my TV time :thumbs:


Man is made by his belief. As he believes, so he is.

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on the flip side of that, the state and city laws that dictate how many people can live in the same house are set up for a reason. Health reasons, sanitary reasons, etc.

Sorry, that's anti-family nonsense.

There is nothing inherently unsanitary about a large group of people living together. They just have to put in more effort to keep things clean.

If the true motive was to keep things clean/sanitary, the regulations would speak to that directly.

Instead, the regulations try to deter people from allowing their immigrant relatives to live with them. What's the message here? That "they" don't belong in nice neighborhoods and should go live in one of America's many POS neighborhoods? Sorry but my township can make any rule it wants. My family is going to live with me, as long as I can afford it.

And as long as they don't cut into my TV time :thumbs:

I wouldn't WANT more people living with me than I have now. If the house isn't big enough, it's not big enough.

We also have a problem with people from E St. Louis using addresses here in my town so they can go to the more desirable schools even tho they don't really live there. So the housing department limits how many people can "claim" to live somewhere.


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April 18, 2005 EAD and AOS receipt dates for NOA

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August 10, 2005 ---EAD approved via infopass appointment

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February 9, 2006 - denial for AOS letter due to the wrong form being submitted from the doctor. PLEASE MAKE SURE THIS DOESN'T HAPPEN TO YOU!!

February 16, 2006 - USCIS accepts the motion to reopen without an additional fee - finally something goes right! We should hear from USCIS St. Louis office within 2 weeks.

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Legal Permanent Resident - just waiting for time to pass for him to have eligibility for citizenship.

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I wouldn't WANT more people living with me than I have now. If the house isn't big enough, it's not big enough.

That's your decision. You just shouldn't impose your judgements of how many is too many on others.

We also have a problem with people from E St. Louis using addresses here in my town so they can go to the more desirable schools even tho they don't really live there. So the housing department limits how many people can "claim" to live somewhere.

They're not required to show some form of proof of address? Like a utility bill or lease or property tax bill? IMO if they can produce the required documents, what's the problem?


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I wouldn't WANT more people living with me than I have now. If the house isn't big enough, it's not big enough.

That's your decision. You just shouldn't impose your judgements of how many is too many on others.

We also have a problem with people from E St. Louis using addresses here in my town so they can go to the more desirable schools even tho they don't really live there. So the housing department limits how many people can "claim" to live somewhere.

They're not required to show some form of proof of address? Like a utility bill or lease or property tax bill? IMO if they can produce the required documents, what's the problem?

now they HAVE to show the housing permit that you have to have to live somewhere. Before that, nope. Most of them were saying "oh she lives with her aunt and i live at home here." It's hard for kids to have utiltiy bills and such.


March 4, 2004 NOA 1

June 29, 2004 NOA 2

August 26th -- interview date - we need to complete a I-601 waiver so it's back to waiting again

January 6, 2005 i-601 waiver approved!!!!

January 21, 2005 VISA IN HAND

February 12, 2005 WEDDING!!!!!

March 10, 2005 mailed AOS and EAD applications to Chicago

April 18, 2005 EAD and AOS receipt dates for NOA

June 30, 2005 AOS RFE evidence submitted (translated birth certificate)

August 10, 2005 ---EAD approved via infopass appointment

October 18, 2005 - AOS interview in St. Louis - received an RFE for vaccination supplement

February 9, 2006 - denial for AOS letter due to the wrong form being submitted from the doctor. PLEASE MAKE SURE THIS DOESN'T HAPPEN TO YOU!!

February 16, 2006 - USCIS accepts the motion to reopen without an additional fee - finally something goes right! We should hear from USCIS St. Louis office within 2 weeks.

April 3, 2006 - Received welcome to America letter in the mail!

April 8, 2006 - Received GC in the mail - done for 2 years!!!!

March 1, 2008 - mailed off I-751

March 3, 2008 NSC delivery confirmation

March 10, 2008 NOA 1

March 28, 2008 Biometrics appointment

Legal Permanent Resident - just waiting for time to pass for him to have eligibility for citizenship.

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We also have a problem with people from E St. Louis using addresses here in my town so they can go to the more desirable schools even tho they don't really live there. So the housing department limits how many people can "claim" to live somewhere.

Do you have any idea how bad the schools in East St. Louis are?


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I wouldn't WANT more people living with me than I have now. If the house isn't big enough, it's not big enough.

That's your decision. You just shouldn't impose your judgements of how many is too many on others.

We also have a problem with people from E St. Louis using addresses here in my town so they can go to the more desirable schools even tho they don't really live there. So the housing department limits how many people can "claim" to live somewhere.

They're not required to show some form of proof of address? Like a utility bill or lease or property tax bill? IMO if they can produce the required documents, what's the problem?

now they HAVE to show the housing permit that you have to have to live somewhere. Before that, nope. Most of them were saying "oh she lives with her aunt and i live at home here." It's hard for kids to have utiltiy bills and such.

Right, I know. But you can expect that from their parents or legal guardian.

Now if a kid from E St. Louis is living with her aunt in a nicer part of town... isn't that kid really living in the nicer part of town now? Why do you assume there is something sinister about that?


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We also have a problem with people from E St. Louis using addresses here in my town so they can go to the more desirable schools even tho they don't really live there. So the housing department limits how many people can "claim" to live somewhere.

Do you have any idea how bad the schools in East St. Louis are?

yes i do. However, does that give those people the right to fake living somewhere else (and that's what they do) so they can go to the schools that I am paying taxes for? If you don't live here, and haven't lived here for a long period of time, you would have NO idea of how bad the problem is and how people around here feel about it. You want to go to my school, MOVE HERE... PAY TAXES ON MY SCHOOL like I do. Don't live somewhere cheaper and pay appropriate taxes, and then try to take advantage of my benefits for my higher tax rated school.

and yes, I have a problem with having 15 people living in a one bedroom apartment. Please tell me how that is safe and normal?

I wouldn't WANT more people living with me than I have now. If the house isn't big enough, it's not big enough.

That's your decision. You just shouldn't impose your judgements of how many is too many on others.

We also have a problem with people from E St. Louis using addresses here in my town so they can go to the more desirable schools even tho they don't really live there. So the housing department limits how many people can "claim" to live somewhere.

They're not required to show some form of proof of address? Like a utility bill or lease or property tax bill? IMO if they can produce the required documents, what's the problem?

now they HAVE to show the housing permit that you have to have to live somewhere. Before that, nope. Most of them were saying "oh she lives with her aunt and i live at home here." It's hard for kids to have utiltiy bills and such.

Right, I know. But you can expect that from their parents or legal guardian.

Now if a kid from E St. Louis is living with her aunt in a nicer part of town... isn't that kid really living in the nicer part of town now? Why do you assume there is something sinister about that?

when that kid is claiming to live in a one bedroom apartment with 15 other people. People are abusing the system all the time. If it was one kid living with his/her aunt in a better part of town, I would have NO problem with that. It's the abuse of the system that I have a problem with. They claim their kids live there, when they really don't. They get driven into town every morning for school.

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March 4, 2004 NOA 1

June 29, 2004 NOA 2

August 26th -- interview date - we need to complete a I-601 waiver so it's back to waiting again

January 6, 2005 i-601 waiver approved!!!!

January 21, 2005 VISA IN HAND

February 12, 2005 WEDDING!!!!!

March 10, 2005 mailed AOS and EAD applications to Chicago

April 18, 2005 EAD and AOS receipt dates for NOA

June 30, 2005 AOS RFE evidence submitted (translated birth certificate)

August 10, 2005 ---EAD approved via infopass appointment

October 18, 2005 - AOS interview in St. Louis - received an RFE for vaccination supplement

February 9, 2006 - denial for AOS letter due to the wrong form being submitted from the doctor. PLEASE MAKE SURE THIS DOESN'T HAPPEN TO YOU!!

February 16, 2006 - USCIS accepts the motion to reopen without an additional fee - finally something goes right! We should hear from USCIS St. Louis office within 2 weeks.

April 3, 2006 - Received welcome to America letter in the mail!

April 8, 2006 - Received GC in the mail - done for 2 years!!!!

March 1, 2008 - mailed off I-751

March 3, 2008 NSC delivery confirmation

March 10, 2008 NOA 1

March 28, 2008 Biometrics appointment

Legal Permanent Resident - just waiting for time to pass for him to have eligibility for citizenship.

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when that kid is claiming to live in a one bedroom apartment with 15 other people. People are abusing the system all the time.

But why do you assume that is abuse?

Many poor people DO live like that. They do it so they can eventually have a better life.

Why stand in the way of that?


Man is made by his belief. As he believes, so he is.

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