Should the free market decide how many people live in one house? Or the government? The Post’s Marc Fisher reports on a flood of anti-immigrant bills introduced in Virginia’s General Assembly. One, from Republican Bob Marshall, would prohibit more than four unrelated people from living in one house (whether legal, illegal, native-born American, or even “the 12 Apostles”). This is not only anti-immigrant but anti-poor in general; many towns restrict houses to single-family and only zone for houses, keeping property values high and perpetuating an affordability crisis. Unfortunately, pro-sprawl, anti-density policies often do carry an undercurrent of anti-minority sentiment.
This is a case where a free-market approach is a superior one. If there’s demand for more people to live in smaller spaces at cheaper rates, whether they’re immigrants or not, the market should be able to provide it. Yet zoning in this case thrwarts the market’s needs. In Marshall’s case, at least he’s not being hypocritical; this is one Republican who doesn’t seem to believe in the free market at all. On his Web site, he sometimes takes a more traditionally liberal and more often a classically conservative approach to specific issues, but in every case, his solution to a problem is an authoritarian one.