Today, I write as a representative of the extreme need for long-term housing in North Lake Tahoe and Truckee. Although I will detail my own situation, I represent thousands of others in my shoes. I have been a resident of North Lake Tahoe for two and a half years. Hardly long enough to call myself “local,” but enough time to grow roots and to fall in love with a place.
In my short time here, I’ve lost three rental homes to a sale, an expired short-term lease, and raised rent, respectively. That’s moving into a new place on average every 10 months, if you do the math. Once more, my current home is for sale, and again I must relocate. I have been searching for two and a half months and exhausted every resource to no avail.
In my experience, one person showing a rental received 80 calls responding to his ad in the first day it was posted. Another home was shown six months in advance, requiring a $2,000 deposit at the time of application. In my 10 minutes at the showing, five other couples also viewed the place. Another landlord opted to rent to an out-of-town person who promised guaranteed income without meeting them first. How can considering this type of tenant be acceptable, when our doctors and teachers are forced to commute daily from Reno?
Most of us who show up to the open houses, make the calls, and fill out the applications are the same. We work full time, have great references, and have blue collar jobs that contribute to the community. We are tomorrow’s change-makers, government agents, teachers, and doctors. We are young emerging professionals. We are the service industry, those who allow daily life in Tahoe to be what it is. We maintain roads, prepare food, and clean homes. None of us can afford to buy in this market. So we opt to rent. But there are no options to rent.
So, how will this community exist in the future without the core of its service industry, as we begin to move away? Who will the change-makers be then, if not us? Will it be only the wealthy that remain as we are forced out? Denying housing to our workforce is a determined nod toward the very type of exclusive, luxury community most locals don’t want to see grow here.
There are a few things being done: A new website, uselanding.com, aims to pair locals with others either looking to share a space or rent out their home, with criteria like where you’d like to live and what you do for work. In this vein, it is absolutely essential that we find a way to match the long-term housing that currently exists to locals with community-vested interests. That said, we must also create more long-term housing with extreme haste.
The Mountain Housing Council has also continued to try to address the issue proactively. In 2018, realtor Amie Quirarte answered an MHC challenge to come up with housing solutions by suggesting we improve the limitations to building an ADU. In another effort, several “affordable housing” developments exist in Truckee. They remain full, with waiting lists hundreds of names long.
Despite the efforts of these few, the change isn’t coming fast enough. Why are we tasking a few independent local organizations with fixing a problem that spans multiple counties and two states, impacting thousands — and why is everyone else turning their heads?
Local and county officials continue to approve large, expensive residential developments, overlooking simple and achievable goals and initiatives that could address the overall housing crisis, like limiting vacation rentals, focusing on building more affordable housing, and hearing those in our community who offer additional solutions. Realty companies continue to urge homeowners to rent short-term. Wealthy individuals continue to opt for million-dollar developments aimed to house the rich.
None of this promises a good end, when the outcome is that no workforce will exist to maintain daily life if the housing crisis persists. It is my great hope that the unbearable lack of housing for the members of this community will be taken seriously and addressed by our local officials, property managers, real estate agents, and homeowners as soon as possible.
~ Le’a Gleason is a journalist and freelance writer who is a former Moonshine Ink associate editor.