After a long and exhaustive, as well as exhausting, search Provincetown recently chose a new Town Manager. But the newly anointed one turned them down. Reason? Can’t afford to buy a house in town.
Couldn’t he find a cheaper place elsewhere and commute to work? Maybe, but that wouldn’t be allowed. P’town requires its town leaders—police and fire chiefs and town manager—to reside in town. So the town is questioning its residency policy.
The reasons for the policy are clear: town leaders will be more effective and responsible if they know the town they serve as residents know it, if they know and are known by fellow citizens. Makes sense. But given the high real estate prices driven up by the second home market, maybe something’s got to give. Either lose the sensible policy or increase what otherwise seems a competitive salary.
Wellfleet doesn’t have such a requirement. But in past few months locals have been complaining that no members of the police department live in town any more Even the chief lives several towns away. A troubling, even dysfunctional, distance has grown up between the police and the people they serve that didn’t used to exist, according to longterm residents.
It’s a good guess that the reason for the diaspora is the secondhome market. The people we pay to enforce our laws can’t afford to live here any more.
These days many people who moved here in the 1970s and 80s, including a lot of town leaders, wouldn’t be able to afford to buy here now.
Thus the squeeze. It feels dysfunctional to have the people you depend on—not only town leaders but plumbers and electricians, all the people it takes to make a town run, living in other towns. But are we willing and able to pay them enough to buy into our towns’ high priced real estate?