June 23, 2020 Moonshine Minutes
There is a lot of housing in Tahoe/Truckee that sits vacant. We all know that. But did you know that COVID helped push the needle toward more long-term residents having a home in some of these vacant houses?
I’m Alex Hoeft, news reporter for Moonshine Ink and here to report today’s Moonshine Minutes.
When it comes to houses in Truckee and Kings Beach, about 50% are empty most of the time. In Tahoma, it’s 80%. Those numbers come from the Short-Term Rental White Paper released in 2019 by the Mountain Housing Council.
All of these vacant houses, which are second or shared homes, are often rented out, be it long term or short term. The rest simply aren’t used until the homeowner comes to town. But in the wake of the coronavirus, a business called Landing Locals saw the scales tip toward long-term renting.
The stats speak to second homes being used for a variety of reasons but only about a quarter house full-time residents. More and more, people who work here are finding it hard to find housing. The Mountain Housing Council stated that an additional 12,000 housing units are needed to serve the local workforce, including those who commute from out of the area; local residents who are under-housed or over-paying; and the seasonal workforce.
In Truckee, of over 13,000 available housing units in 2019, 52% were second homes; 28% were occupied by full-time residents; 20% were rented long term (or over 31 days); and 12.6% were short-term or vacation rentals. In eastern Placer County, the percentage of second home units is even larger, at 68% of the available 25,000-plus available housing.
But all of this could be shifting.
When the coronavirus hit and STRs were subsequently banned in accordance with the restriction of nonessential travel, Landing Locals founders Colin Frolich and his wife, Kai, saw increased interest from homeowners wanting to shift from short-term to long-term rentals. A newly rebranded platform, Landing Locals connects homeowners with long-term tenants.
Frolich said, “Basically we had this hypothesis of okay, it’s not that we don’t have enough housing in the area, it’s that we need to figure out a way to unlock existing housing inventory … We wanted to recognize that it was really challenging for locals to find housing. There’s a ton of housing available, it’s just there’s no matchmaking happening there, there’s no intermediary.”
Landing Locals meets the needs for two different groups: locals looking to rent long term and locals looking to find renters long term.
In the months leading up to the coronavirus pandemic, Landing Locals would get three to five homeowners a month interested in putting their house up for rent long term. At any given time, the business would have two or three rentals listed and looking for renters. By the time the COVID dust settled in April, the pace of call-ins increased 10-fold — 50 different homeowners had reached out looking to convert their second-home to a long-term rental.
It was their busiest month ever; a dozen places rented out in the 30 days of April, both 6- and 12-month leases. May followed with a huge boom in renter demand, Frolich said, primarily from Bay Area people suddenly allowed to work remotely until the end of the year (or longer) — and ideally in Tahoe.
“We had to really take a step back and go okay, let’s revisit our mission. Let’s make sure we’re doubling down on local employment preference, and let’s very nicely say to the folks that are trying to move here, ‘Hey, we’re prioritizing locally employed folks for these houses.’”
Interest in shifting to long-term renting has waned in recent weeks, with homeowners previously seeking to change to long-term renting telling Frolich they may use their Tahoe homes this summer after all. But Frolich said he thinks a second wave of interested homeowners will surface at the end of the summer.
“We’re probably going to realize we’re not opening gondolas the same way, we’re not going to have the same demand for short-term rentals, we’re not going to have the out-of-state rentals … I think come the fall we’re going to see a resurgence of this virus and we’re going to see a lot more lockdown. Then we’ll see another wave of housing opportunities for Landing Locals.”
Moonshine Ink is keeping its finger on the pulse of short-term rentals during these turbulent times. Make sure you’re tuned in at moonshineink.com, where you’ll find this full piece — Short Term to Long Term — and more.