PROVINCETOWN — The new executive director of the Provincetown Business Guild does not have a place to live for the summer.
Stephan Hengst, who was hired in January to fill the position vacated by Bob Sanborn, is from Ulster Park, N.Y., where he ran Big Gay Hudson Valley, a LGBTQ promotional organization. He said he has temporary housing in Provincetown until May and a “strong lead” but nothing definite for the summer. So, along with the challenges of a new job, there is “the stress of having no place to stay,” he said.
“Working remotely is not even possible for this job,” Hengst told the Independent on April 8. The job involves planning, promoting, and executing LGBTQ events and themed weeks, from Family Week to Carnival. These events range in intensity and the amount of hands-on preparation needed. Some will call for “crafternoons” of float-building and costuming, Hengst said.
PBG President Fred Latasa-Nicks, who owns Strangers & Saints, said the nonprofit has been exploring the idea of turning the small condominium used as the organization’s office for the last 20 years or so into a place for the executive director to live. But so far, the majority of members in the nine-unit condominium association at 3 Freeman St. are opposed to the plan, Latasa-Nicks said, even though some people do already live in the building.
Hannah McCormick, the owner of Hannah’s Headlines, a hair salon at 3 Freeman St., said the trustees are meeting about the issue soon, so she did not want to comment.
Strong Season Ahead
For the tourists who have been cooped up by Covid-19 for two years, this summer looks like a return to normalcy, and they seem ready to spend money on a vacation. That is reflected by room occupancy rates and hotel and short-term rental prices, which are all up.
Data from AirDNA, which tracks short-term rental prices and occupancy, show that the average daily rate for a Provincetown rental is currently $480. That’s not much of a change from last summer, when the average rate was $493 a night. But it is a big jump from 2019, when it was $375.
Hotel and motel high season rates don’t look much different from short-term rentals. A room at the Provincetown Inn in July and August starts at $350 a night and most will top $400, depending on supply and demand, said Derek Evans, general manager of the waterfront lodging in the far West End.
Other rates advertised for a July weekend include $489 a night at the Harbor Hotel at 698 Commercial St.; $589 a night at AWOL, formerly the Inn at the Moors, at 59 Province Lands Rd.; and $330 a night at the Brasswood Inn at 174 Commercial St. The Land’s End Inn is running $465 to $735 a night, and the Brass Key Guesthouse at 67 Bradford St. has summer rates ranging from $399 to $825 a night.
“All signs indicate it will be a good summer,” said Radu Luca, executive director of the Provincetown Chamber of Commerce. Short-term rental reservations for spring and summer are 20 percent up compared to last year and around 130 percent over 2020, Luca said, and hotels and motels are doing well, too.
But, he added, “I am trying to stay cautious. There is always the bogeyman in the closet — workforce housing.”
Business owners are feeling queasy about a related problem: a shortage of employees. Luca said temporary J-1 and H-2B foreign worker visas are available to bring over students and nonagricultural workers. But there are not enough places to put them, Luca said.
“The staff shortage is not going to get any better,” said Athena McGrath, a AAA travel agent. “Everyone has to pack a little of their patience when they come to the Cape.”
Latasa-Nicks said he has room at his property for about eight Strangers & Saints staff members to live, starting this month. And like many business owners, he leases additional rooms offsite. “Last year, I rented a unit for $2,000 a month and I charged the employee about $750,” he said.
The real endangered species are those trying to live here year-round, Latasa-Nicks said. “There is a big difference between those who come here for the summer to earn money and the people who are trying to build a life here,” he said.
Dan McKeon, who administers the Facebook page “Ptown Residents: Seeking Year-Round Housing,” said this year “is really bad, and it is the worst I have seen.”
He has at least 75 people he is working to connect with a room or a unit. Recently, he said, someone was offering a 600-square-foot first-floor apartment for $25,000 upfront for the season on Creek Hill Road.
McKeon had some advice for those who think they have found a bargain: renter beware. He has had to screen out scammers offering fake rentals designed to extract advance payments from those desperate to find a place to stay, he said.