Friday, May 19, 2006


It should be no surprise to anyone that today's family looks different. I don't want to get lost in whether that's good or bad, or even go too far into the possibility that really it hasn't changed - we are just recognizing reality. Either way - today's families do not all consist of two parents, two children and a dog. There may be one parent. There may be two parents of the same gender. There may be friends who have chosen to pool resources to help each other raise their children. The end result is there are now numerous recognized formulations that add up to family.

I grew up in DC, which has a number of colleges and universities and therefore a number of students. Which leads to a number of group houses - houses where a number of lessees, often with individual or by room leases, share space in order to save rent money. My first out of college, out of m parents' house place was a group house just outside of DC. There were five bedrooms, each under a separate lease, two bathrooms and a kitchen and living room. I paid $210 plus utilities for my room. Let me tell you - that's a steal compared to what I pay now for a less crowded but still smaller overall space.

So, some folks got tired of living next door to students in one upscale area of DC - known as Georgetown. They got tired of absentee landlords that operated a number of group houses and never came to check that a couch hadn't been sitting on the lawn all summer. So, they proposed a law, along the lines of no more than three related people can live together. Well, not surprisingly, people disliked this. Not just students and not just landlords. Plenty of people scrunch up in order to save on rent, inviting cousins and friends of siblings and co-workers to come share their living space and therefore their expenses. And they want the right to do that. Especially in this rent poor city. So the law did not pass.

Well the folks behind the initiative were not satisfied, so they tried to get it passed as a neighborhood initiative. And so, the Georgetown students registered to vote and two of them ran for the neighborhood commission, and were elected. And their point was, hey, we're part of this neighborhood too. But we're far from a problem, we are actually a boon to this area.

So, why am I bringing this up years later? I am reminded of this because of this story I ran across on Wasted Blog: Town Cracks Down On Unwed Couples. Apparently Black Jack, MO has such a no more than three unrelated persons. And it is affecting an unmarried couple who have two children because, since Shelltrack and Loving are not related to each other (although everyone in their household is related to someone else, but I digress) they are unable to secure an occupancy permit on the home they moved into. When they discovered this, they proposed an amendment that would allow unmarried couples with children to live together, but the amendment failed to pass.

Now I can't say for sure what the thinking was in this decision. But it seems like a misguided attempt to promote "family". Except by narrowly defining family to fit only one mold, they are in fact hurting family. They are telling this family you can't live here - at least not all together. Interestingly - they could split the kids and rent separate places. Now of course that wouldn't make familial or financial sense. So, I imagine they will be moving to another city. One that really does support families.