Aborting viable and full term babies isn’t the only anti-child, anti-family policy gaining in popularity. Cities and affluent suburbs are also using zoning regulations to keep out families with children. New housing developments are forbidding the building of three-bedroom homes. And whole swaths of urban areas are forbidding day care centers.
They are calling it “Vasectomy Zoning,” meaning only non-breeding men need apply. Two city planners, writing in CityLab, tell the tale.
From Nolan Grey and Lyman Stone, How ‘Vasectomy Zoning’ Makes Childless Cities:
The U.S. birth rate recently sunk to a 30-year low, a trend that’s been blamed on everything from economic anxieties and climate change to the rise of smartphones and the Millennial “sex recession.” Perhaps we should also lay some of the responsibility at the feet of city planning.
As bizarre as an anti-day-care bill may seem, the fear of more children coming into a community is a mainstay at new housing proposal hearings. Particularly in high-cost suburbs along the coasts, the mere inclusion of three-bedroom apartments—the kind of units young families need—can get a project in hot water with elected officials. While the justifications for blocking this kind of housing vary from preserving rural character to preventing (real or imagined) school overcrowding, the result is that more and more municipalities are adopting policies designed to keep out children and the families who care for them.
In the New York suburb of Garwood, New Jersey, city officials adopted a master plan earlier in 2018 that places a total prohibition on units with three or more bedrooms. In Nutley, New Jersey, another New York suburb, a July zoning fight came with assurances that three-bedroom units—and the children that come with them—weren’t part of the plan. In the Garden State more broadly, municipalities increasingly meet their state-mandated fair-share affordable housing requirements by building only senior housing. Affordable housing proposals that include three-bedroom units are rejected out of hand, leaving working families with few options.
The problem is likely much bigger than even these overtly anti-family measures in Philadelphia and New Jersey would suggest. Insomuch as zoning serves to block smaller, more affordable housing, the way we plan cities may be undermining the desire of young couples to start families. A former Massachusetts state senator coined a term for this phenomenon: vasectomy zoning.
I’m not sure that cities that want to promote the cool factor may not be completely against children. Adults who care about being cool are often pursuing the goal of perpetual adolescence. In effect, they want to be the children.
At any rate, a culture that cares so little for the next generation, in which adults are so oriented to themselves that they are not interested in having children or in even being around them, is a culture that is dying.
Illustration by SamDuluth [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], from Wikimedia Commons