Happy New Year, people!
Even with the lofty goals made as the calendar year flips over, there’s a distinct feeling that we remain sunk in a pretty big pile of muck. Global unrest simmers, national cohesion fractures, and local divisions are boiling. The overarching narrative is that the world is on a precipice, and it seems a handbasket might be warranted for where we’re going.
Battles are simmering in Tahoe/Truckee over important issues such as community character; climate change impacts; and the housing crisis (I’ve even heard it called a “housing disaster”) with its fallout.
But here’s the thing: The epic tales we hold near and dear to our hearts always happen at points of immense upheaval. Frodo and Sam went on their journey as Sauron seemed headed to victory. Avatar, the highest grossing film of all-time, chronicles a society on the brink of collapse and its comeback, against all odds.
It’s the storyline of the ages, where characters you love band together and put determined, inspired effort into keeping their world from crumbling.
Laura Read’s roundup of Tahoe’s new gritty memoirs grip our attention with tales of challenge and the power of sheer will. Touching Feel-Good animal rescues over this holiday season illustrate how this community rallies together so beautifully. A team of helpers brought 85-year-old Barbara Witt to ski the slopes after she believed she had taken her last run.
However, on the sticky subject of short-term rentals, we’ve yet to commit to collaborate. Some advocate for an all-out ban in order to equalize society a little, while others hold up private property rights as the sole guiding star. Most people’s opinions likely lie somewhere in the middle.
We have an opportunity to create our own epic tale: to be a community that answers this tough question; a guiding light in how to be inclusive of all those who call this place home.
Start with common ground: We can all agree housing affordability is direly challenging the community fabric, a precious commodity we would like to keep intact. (If you don’t feel this way, kindly find the exit.)
Next, do research and give serious consideration: Short-term rentals were propelled into the housing-crisis spotlight from community reports and market analyses. Every single jurisdiction in our coverage area decided to implement some form of restrictions on STRs.
Weigh the impacts: According to Christy Morrison, a real estate agent interviewed for the lead news story, prospective home buyers backed off when told they might not be able to short-term rent. The median home price squeaked below $1 million for the first time in two years. I recognize that many factors play into the softening of the market, but I feel strongly the restrictions on short-term rentals play a large part. (Christy and I are sure to have a lively discussion.)
In past stories, we’ve looked at how certain people don’t think curtailing short-term rentals will lead to more long-term rentals and that we should allow the market to self-correct. But more affordable home prices will house more locals and truth be told, the market skyrocketed until short-term rental ordinances went into effect.
Christy brought up the idea of allotting certain neighborhoods for short-term rentals. That’s worth exploring. Perhaps we could turn the model on its head and allocate new dense development for them — keeping them close to town centers and out of residential neighborhoods. Perhaps we return again and again to our common ground that we want our community to remain a community. All our efforts, lever-pulling, and principles will be laser-focused on that mission. When we retain an economically stratified, housing-secure community with thriving businesses and a healthy surrounding landscape, then we shall have our epic tale.