Crowded driveways

Prince William County Supervisors took steps this week to restrict homeowners from paving over their lawns to accommodate more cars. In doing so, the board targeted only a single symptom in what is a larger problem in the D.C. suburbs a lack of affordable housing.

The new law prohibits homeowners from paving more than 35 percent (or 720 square feet) of their front lawn. Cars are also not allowed to be parked on the lawn. This will allow for tidy lawns as more cars are moved to the curb.

All the regulations banning cars and the preservation of front yards will not hide the fact that more and more families and single tenants are being packed into single family homes throughout the county.

This is a suburban problem that Prince William and Fairfax counties have failed to remedy. Homeowners paving their grassy lawns come as a result of a problem and are not the cause of it. The problem is housing. People are crammed in small homes because the price of housing costs more than many families can afford. The sprawl of suburbia has also made it inconvenient for most people to walk to work though there are busses. This produces a high density of people and cars. Cars go either on the streets or in the yards.

This is not a slow growth or smart growth issue. People come to Northern Virginia because it is a lucrative part of the country where jobs are plentiful. More homes need to be built to accommodate the work force, but this doesn’t mean the county needs to continue clear cutting and building the standard housing developments which have been laid out over the past 50 years. Sometimes it’s good to have high density.

That means designating areas for high rise apartments or condominiums. If built near commuter rails, mass transit centers and employment centers, it works very well for both the working class, young professionals and even families. Tysons Corner is giving this a try. Unfortunately, this type of development has not been encouraged in Prince William which resulted in the county’s abundance of town homes being transformed into de facto apartments. This is now spreading to communities where single family homes dominate the landscape.

The recent paving law may help neighborhoods fend off the extinction of the front lawn but it will not help the problem that’s apparently causing so many lawns to disappear in the first place. The greater problem must be addressed both locally and regionally.

The only thing the new parking law does is force car owners to find a new place to park.

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