Arlington is considering a proposal to allow homeowners to make rental units like basement apartments in their homes. It’s already legal in DC, as well as Montgomery and Fairfax. Today’s Post reports that many citizens are fighting the proposal, concerned that it will bring undesirable immigrants into Arlington.
As suburbs were built in the mid-20th century, one of their appealing qualities for many upper middle class white families was the way the larger size and higher cost of each house kept the poorer, blacker and browner people out of their towns. Many towns passed rules to limit each house to only a single family, discourage rentals, and keep large lot sizes, all in the name of maintaining high property values. But high property values meant none of those scary people.
Now, the same arguments are coming back in Arlington. “You work hard to get your family into a single-family neighborhood,” says one of the opponents. “We moved here for the quality of life Arlington affords,” says another. “We paid a lot for our homes.” Working hard to get a nice house, that makes sense, but how does having only one family in neighboring houses affect them?
Opponents are bringing up the same arguments we hear in neighborhood after neighborhood in DC and town after town elsewhere. Parking will become more difficult. Traffic will become more congested. It’ll change the “neighborhood character.” Preserve the architecture and stop McMansions, sure; deal with congestion, yeah (but by adding public transit rather than wider roads). But trying to actually keep new people out, whether motivated by classism and racism or simple fear of more people, should not be allowed for any neighborhood or town.