This is a little sidebar article to my series about Alpharetta’s ten year plan survey.
Woodstock, Lawrenceville, Cumming, Loganville, Johns Creek and Alpharetta. This is where my co-workers live. I took an informal survey of the folks in my department and this is what I found. It is by no means a scientific sample, but based on my ten years of cubicle experience, this is typical.
I’ve seen this topic come up from time to time in several places. It is the issue that people who work here don’t live here. I first saw it in the 2005 New York Times article about Alpharetta that inspired my blog’s title. In that piece, the author points out that only a third of Alpharetta’s city employees lived in the city limits. Only three of the city’s police officers lived here. Keep in mind this was 2005, but you get the idea. The writer goes on to mention how landscapers and cleaning ladies commute 30 miles to work here.
This issue came up again last week in the discussion that ensued after my jobs and infrastructure article. Can people who work here afford to live here? Do we need a living wage ordinance to pay blue collar folks enough to buy homes in town? Or should we build higher-density neighborhoods at a lower price to provide affordable housing options?
I say none of the above. Why? Because of the illustration I gave at the start of this post. My fellow cubicle dwellers could easily afford to live in Alpharetta as I do. Why don’t they? There is probably not a single answer. Maybe they’ve established their family’s roots elsewhere. Maybe some want to buy more home for their money farther up GA-400. Who knows. My point is that these are people who could easily afford to live here and chose not to.
What’s to say that Alpharetta’s policemen, fire fighters, school teachers and others might want to do the same? With a higher wage or cheaper housing, would they want to move here? Perhaps. I’ll bet they make the same decisions my co-workers do. I’ll bet they scatter regardless of the other conditions.
And why is it important? Would my cleaning lady do a better job cleaning my house if she lived in Alpharetta? Would the policeman care more if he lived here? Perhaps. I’ll bet his radar gun will show I’m speeding regardless of where he lays his head at night. If I’m the police chief or school principal, I don’t want to worry about where my employees live, I just want them to do their jobs well.
You could make an argument on traffic. Having more folks living here would ease congestion on roads. Sure, I’m not going to argue that point. Then again, high density developments bring with them their own traffic problems.
It’s nice to think that a suburb could be a happy little cohesive utopia where everyone lives, works and plays in town. The reality is that this rarely happens. As much as I enjoy living and working here, I think enacting public policy to encourage this is fruitless.