Housing Dilemma

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By Trinkie Watson

The affordable housing shortage has been developing and increasing for decades, with significant escalation in the last couple of years. The combination of lost jobs during lockdowns, smaller supply of rental homes and apartments, and increasing rents have taken a huge toll on the number of locals available to feed our service and retail businesses.   

I have been very fortunate to list and sell wonderful homes for vacation use, with many buyers in this last year making Tahoe/Truckee their permanent residence. Regardless of use, the more people we have in our communities, the more need there is for services, restaurants, and shops. My personal experience living at Tahoe started in 1966 with sharing a home, taking seasonal jobs, enjoying the outdoors by skiing on snow or water, hiking with my dog, and playing a lot of tennis. As it’s said, “We come for the winter and stay for the summer.” A lot of us who consider ourselves local have done just that. I don’t think that desire has gone away — so many talented young people come to our beautiful area — but where can they live?

Currently there are 288 affordable housing units about to open in Truckee that will offer reasonable (I guess that’s debatable) rent opportunities. Additionally, the town is exploring a below market rate program that will take time to research and develop. One comment in a Truckee town presentation referred to creating affordable housing at market rates. In my jargon, that’s an oxymoron. “Market rate” typically means the price a property sells or rents for in the regular market … a figure totally different than what needs to be accomplished for affordable or workforce housing rates.

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The term “market rate” could probably be interchanged with “market value,” but the concept that could be vital in Tahoe/Truckee is what I would consider to be “community value.” We need housing at a community market rate to create value for the local population that wants to live and work in the region. And community value in this context includes all of our population; without our local work force there would be no services for all of us to enjoy.

One solution that’s been explored in places like Colorado involves a public partnership with developers to enable workforce housing to be built, keeping the rents and sale prices at affordable levels long term, not just for initial sale and occupancy. Tenants and purchasers need to be employed locally. Back home, two of our local business owners have purchased older motels to provide housing for their employees, which is a great way to go to unlock immediate affordable housing stock. For those locally employed seeking rental housing as well as those wanting to provide rental housing for local employees in the Tahoe/Truckee area, Landing Locals (landinglocals.com) is a great resource. There are numerous entities working hard to lighten the load and solve the challenge. It will take the town and local agencies to work together to attain the goal.

~ Trinkie Watson is a regional Lake Tahoe broker with Chase International (CA 00326518  NV B.S.1022) and has been in real estate for over 40 years and a resident of the area for over 50. From cabins to ranches to lakefront estates, she sells it all. Connect: (530) 582-0722;  twatson@chaseinternational.com.

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