In Provincetown, Mass., a Matchmaker Helps the Determined Discover Housing


A mixture of excessive situations has made the distant Cape Cod city’s housing market some of the harrowing in New England.


We’re exploring how America defines itself one place at a time. On this coastal New England city, a booming summer time economic system has native renters afraid of being priced out.

Reporting from Provincetown, Mass.

As quickly as he noticed the submit on Fb, from a younger girl in search of summer time housing for her boyfriend, Dan McKeon knew what was going to occur.

Mr. McKeon is an unofficial “housing matchmaker” in Provincetown, on the far fringe of Cape Cod, the place a mixture of excessive situations — restricted inventory, huge summertime demand, heavy reliance on an inflow of seasonal employees — creates some of the harrowing housing markets in New England.

In his much-consulted Fb group, individuals in search of housing submit smiling selfies and plaintive appeals for assist; far much less steadily, Mr. McKeon and others share accessible leases. Each on-line and as a fixture on the native social circuit, Mr. McKeon urges the city’s owners to open unused rooms to determined newcomers, shares insider search ideas and strives to make sure that each rental-seeker, year-round or not, feels welcome.

On this April day, nonetheless, the girl’s submit, in the hunt for a room for $700 monthly, had unleashed a mocking backlash amongst among the group’s 2,400 members, simply as Mr. McKeon had anticipated. “Fairly clearly nobody has advised you it’s inconceivable,” learn one response, “however $700/month is a late Nineties hire.”

In a housing market as unhinged as Provincetown’s — the place the median gross sales worth of a single-family house was $1.9 million final month, the variety of Airbnbs has surged and condo vacancies are primarily nonexistent — the sharp-edged commentary displays the frustration of native renters who dwell in fixed concern of being priced out.

“Nobody is immune,” mentioned Mr. McKeon, 68, who fell in love with Provincetown on a household day journey when he was 15 and retired there in 2009. “It doesn’t matter when you have cash, if you happen to’ve been right here a very long time — if you happen to hire, you’re topic to undergo this.”

A renter himself, he is aware of the cycle of upheaval firsthand. Compelled to maneuver thrice to date, he’s dreading a fourth relocation, from a home he loves, subsequent yr, when his landlord plans to reclaim it as her full-time house.

Mr. McKeon, who volunteers his time as an unpaid housing guru, and in addition works as a photographer on the town, mentioned he was pushed to assist others as a result of he is aware of what it’s to dream of residing in Provincetown. He’s additionally pushed to protect civility — even within the on-line trenches — lest the welcoming vibes that outline his adopted hometown crumble within the chaos of a housing Armageddon. After the scornful response to the $700 room request, he messaged the girl to supply his help and sternly reminded the group to be variety.

“This isn’t Oprah, or Dr. Phil,” he mentioned in an interview. “That is my housing web page.”

Lengthy a vacation spot for artists, homosexual and lesbian vacationers, and free spirits drawn to the outermost reaches, the city is distant and compact, 116 miles from Boston by automotive and half as far by ferry. Its gray-shingled homes and white picket fences sit surrounded on three sides by water and miles of steep and sprawling sand dunes, a part of the Cape Cod Nationwide Seashore.

Windswept and quiet within the winter, when simply 3,600 year-round residents stay, the city packs in 60,000 individuals on the peak of summer time, its seashores, bars and brick sidewalks teeming with a vibrant combine of rich summer time individuals, L.G.B.T.Q. vacationers, year-rounders and worldwide college students who arrive every spring with short-term J1 visas to work in accommodations, galleries and eating places.

There isn’t a place prefer it, its siren track irresistible to many who hear it. But Provincetown has turn into as unattainable as it’s interesting, its rental housing nearly mythically elusive.

The pleas on Mr. McKeon’s Fb web page chart an emotional collision of desires and deflating realities. Within the frantic run-up to the vacationer season that kicks off on Memorial Day weekend, they got here from a health care provider transferring to city for a brand new job, two Bulgarian college students who “love cleanliness and hate mess” and a mom in Utah in search of a protected place to lift her transgender daughter.

Longtime residents are usually not exempt. Francine Kraniotakis, who manages her household’s downtown enterprise, George’s Pizza, posted her personal entreaty within the Fb group in April. In March, she mentioned, her landlord gave her till June to vacate the condo she has rented for 9 years, near the restaurant and to her getting old mother and father who dwell above it.

“My stress stage is sort of a 20,” she mentioned in early Could on the breezy patio behind the pizza place, the place her father, George Kraniotakis, an immigrant from Greece, tends a cover of trellised grapevines each summer time.

She had requested her landlord for extra time, provided to pay extra hire and tracked down a dozen housing leads, however she had not discovered an reasonably priced place she preferred that was shut sufficient to work, the place she is required in any respect hours to troubleshoot frequent staffing shortages.

Painfully conscious of their housing predicament — and the urgent questions it raises about Provincetown’s future — native leaders have stepped up their efforts to address it. The city is constructing 65 year-round rental items on the previous web site of a VFW corridor, its housing director, Michelle Jarusiewicz, mentioned, whereas a personal developer has plans to create 100 items of dorm-style lodging for seasonal employees, who’re desperately wanted by employers.

As they pressure to search out employees, some companies have been compelled to chop again hours. Others provide on-site housing totally free or minimal hire, or hire rooms for workers in space motels — not all of them in good situation, locals mentioned. The Cape Cod Chamber of Commerce recently hired a housing coordinator to assist scholar employees from abroad discover host households or different lodging for the season.

Kristin Hatch, government director of the Provincetown Housing Authority, mentioned she often receives calls about housing emergencies, together with individuals residing in automobiles or within the woods. Many are former housekeepers, wait workers and different service employees.

“We’re hitting a wall,” she mentioned. “Who’s going to avoid wasting these individuals in a small city like this?”

Mr. McKeon, who spent a long time working in affected person care at a New York psychiatric hospital, just isn’t the one matchmaker on the town. There’s one other Fb web page additionally dedicated to housing, and different scouts, like Arlene Weston, an area housing commissioner who helped place scholar employees in a vacant church rectory final summer time.

Including to their problem, Mr. McKeon mentioned, are the pretend rental listings, posted by scammers, that should be rooted out. In retaliation for exposing them, he mentioned, fraudsters have harassed him on his social media accounts and cellphone, calls he solutions with a cheerful, “Provincetown Police Division!”

He mentioned he has discovered room leases for under a few dozen individuals this spring, within the hardest market he has ever seen.

Nigel Revenge, an area actor, was amongst these squeezed out, after his landlord of three years determined to transform his condo right into a weekly rental. Months of looking obtained him nowhere, and Mr. Revenge left Provincetown on the finish of April to stick with household elsewhere on Cape Cod.

Inside days, he mentioned, a driver referred to as him an anti-gay slur as he rode his bicycle to work. “I’m not in Oz anymore,” Mr. Revenge mentioned.

Henry Merges, 20, a Brown College sophomore, was so keen to just accept a summer time internship on the Provincetown Artwork Affiliation, he briefly thought-about residing in a borrowed camper. Finally, although, he turned down the chance for lack of housing, moved in along with his mother and father in upstate New York and resumed his job search.

“It was fairly heartbreaking,” he mentioned, “nevertheless it felt like a battle not price combating.”

As summer time neared and the rental frenzy escalated, outrage bubbled up once more on Fb, this time in response to a submit about “two freestanding cottages,” 800 and 850 sq. ft.


The associated fee for 4 months: $34,000 per unit.


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