Other reasons for residency requirements include:

  • Department demographics better represent community demographics
  • Employees have ties to the community
  • Taxpayer dollars stay within the community through salaries, etc.

In an exclusive PUBLIC WORKS survey on this topic, one respondent said that by initiating residency requirements his city raised real estate values, quality of life, and community self esteem. Another reason for residency requirements, he says: “The better-paying jobs should go to city residents and not to those who are unwilling to be my neighbor.”

Yet there is an argument for lifting residency requirements that could outweigh the varied reasons for mandating residency: Recruiting top talent.

As reported in our May issue (“The replacements,” page 22), the public sector is experiencing a worker shortage as baby boomers retire.

“There are 20 million fewer people in the generation following the baby boomers,” adds Voorhees. “With the talent shortage that we're seeing in public works, mandating residency requirements is the wrong direction in which to go.”

According to Voohees, making residency a job requirement makes for a very tough, if not impossible, recruitment process. “Many times candidates have told me that they are very interested in a job, but they will not apply because they cannot move their family,” she says.

The two most common reasons for a candidate's unwillingness to move, says Voorhees, are teenage children and dual incomes. “Parents are reluctant to move children who are in high school, and many families have two careers to consider. Often couples will decide where to live based on what's midway to both jobs.”

The question hiring managers must ask themselves: If an ideal candidate lives just outside city limits or in the next town over, are the anticipated benefits of requiring him or her to move worth losing that talent?