Foreward: This question is about the American government, but an argument could be made that it doesn't concern law, strictly speaking. If it doesn't belong here, please let me know where it could find a better home, or migrate it. I do think it's interesting.

The President of the United States, by convention, lives in the White House. The Vice President, by convention, lives in a designated house on the grounds of the United States Naval Observatory. Given that the first Google search autocomplete for "does the vice president" is "does the vice president live in the white house?" it would seem that this is a question of common curiosity, so I ask the community:

Which members of the American government are required by law or tradition to live in a specific location beyond the President?

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    No one in the US, including the President, is required by law to live in any specific place except prisoners. Certain government jobs may require residence in certain places as an inherent part of their job, like say lighthouse keepers in the past, or astronauts aboard a space station, but this isn't going to spelled out in a law.
    – Ross Ridge
    Commented Oct 23, 2020 at 2:23
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    Do soldiers count? Commented Oct 23, 2020 at 17:06
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    It probably belongs at Politics.SE but I'm happy enough to answer.
    – ohwilleke
    Commented Oct 23, 2020 at 20:48

2 Answers 2


Many states have laws providing for a residence for their governors, but I know of no state that mandates the use of those homes. Oregon's previous governor, for instance, lived in Portland rather than the governor's mansion, Mahonia Hall.

Some cities do the same. In New York City, Mayor Bill De Blasio lives at Gracie Mansion, but Mike Bloomberg never did.

Although we don't always think of them as government officials, some government schools provide their presidents with state-funded residences, as well. At the University of Virginia, the president lives at Carr's Hill.


Which members of the American government are required by law or tradition to live in a specific location beyond the President?

In addition to the President, the Vice President, Governors, some Mayors, and most college presidents, here are some others:

  • Secret service members often have accommodations provided by the government to allow them to carry out their duties, although usually they have at least an apartment or room at someone's house as well.

  • Ambassadors and their household staff and some of their professional staff, usually live in the embassy where they are appointed (which has a special legal status). Mere diplomatic consuls (basically deputy ambassadors at regional offices in a foreign country) sometimes live in official residences, but more often only work at official offices and have separate residences. Some people living in embassies are usually spies with an official cover rather than actually really being diplomats. Some or all embassy guards (some of whom soldiers and some of whom are the foreign service equivalent of the Secret Service) also usually live on the premises.

  • Government light house operators usually reside in the lighthouse. Some still do, although most light houses are now automated.

  • Many government owned museums and historical sites that include a historic residence have at least one caretaker in residence.

  • Most junior soldiers live in barracks and many more senior ones live on military bases. Sailors afloat obviously live on their ships. Military chaplains also usually live in an official residence on a military base or on a ship.

  • Park rangers in more remote parks usually live in officially provided residences. So do scientists who do fieldwork for the government in remote areas (astronauts, Antarctic scientists, etc.). An important subset of park rangers used to be fire spotters who lived for months in a fire tower in a forest keeping watch for new fires in order to summon help. But this is now mostly done remotely.

  • At residential educational institutions, inpatient mental health facilities, juvenile detention centers, and prisons in remote areas (that are run by the government) there are usually some staff who are in residence in institutional housing - often a groundskeeper and some junior staff, or a guard on more than the usual 8-12 hour shift, to make sure that mistakes aren't made at shift changes and to provide continuity and to supervise students in a consistent manner. Some stay for only short shifts, others would live on the premises for months at a time. Prison chaplains often have an official residence as well.

  • Government doctors who work in hospitals, and firefighters, usually have work provided sleeping and eating accommodations, since they work 24-72 hours shifts in many cases, even though they usually also have a separate residence of their own.

This isn't a comprehensive list, but those are the ones that immediately come to mind.

  • If the ambassador lives somewhere other than the embassy, the ambassador's residence also has special legal status. Also the fire towers I'm aware of have a nearby residence. The spotter does not live in the tower (same for lighthouses in many cases if not most).
    – phoog
    Commented Oct 23, 2020 at 20:42
  • @phoog I think that there is often a credentialing process involved in getting that status, that ambassadors who often have short terms of office frequently aren't bothered to go though, but I am not saying that you are wrong, and I'm not a real expert in that area.
    – ohwilleke
    Commented Oct 23, 2020 at 20:45
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    I'm just referring to article 30 of the Vienna convention: "The private residence of a diplomatic agent shall enjoy the same inviolability and protection as the premises of the mission." This covers more than just the ambassador, in fact. I suppose that the question of whether given premises constitute a diplomatic agent's private residence would be resolved differently in different jurisdictions and could depend on some formal notification.
    – phoog
    Commented Oct 23, 2020 at 20:57
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    These are all "by tradition" I assume. Are any actually by law? Commented Oct 23, 2020 at 21:17
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    @GeorgeWhite Soldiers may be ordered to live on base (especially in hostile countries), which has force of law. Commented Oct 23, 2020 at 22:36

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