My family moved to Tahoe when I was 5 years old: I was lucky enough to grow up here. Being a kid in Tahoe was magical and I didn’t even know it then. When I think of my childhood, I think of the stone beaches on the West Shore where I would catch crawdads and swim in the summer. I think of the wet spring mud in the forest where I would play kickball with my little brother. I think of the smell of the sage that grew on the elementary school playground and how my friends and I would pick it and use it to make “potions” at recess. I think of ski lessons and my obnoxious pink and black zebra print ski jacket. I think of the community and how everyone felt like a family.
Now that I’m all grown up, I see Tahoe in a different light: It’s still the beautiful place I remember from my childhood, and the community remains my family, but the shifts that have occurred here, most notably the housing crisis, make it awfully difficult for those of us who grew up here to establish our adult lives in the town we consider home.
After graduating from North Tahoe High School in 2017, I moved to New York City for college. During my school years I also lived in London, Paris, and Hawaii, where I graduated (in 2021) via Zoom on the beach. Then, I landed back in Tahoe for my post-college, time-to-be-an-adult chapter.
After living on my own for four years, I was back to living at my parents’ house in my childhood bedroom. It was far from ideal. Finding a place I could afford here, right out of college, was impossible. When I would run into familiar faces around town and chit-chat about what I’ve been up to, I always felt a sense of shame when admitting I was living at home. After all that I had accomplished, I felt I had failed in some way.
In December of 2022, I made the shift I had been longing for — I moved in with my boyfriend when his former roommate left. Just one day prior, our landlord informed us that he is selling the property and that we have until April this year to find a new place. That news was gut wrenching, for I knew how difficult the search for a different home would be. As my boyfriend and I were about to start living together — something that should’ve been over-the-moon-exciting — I was reminded to reign in my excitement and remember that I was moving in only to move out in a couple of months.
There is a serious housing crisis happening in the area due to a high number of second homes and short-term rentals as well as the high price range. This is causing the number of available and affordable long-term rentals to be scarce. Countless locals have had to move elsewhere, leaving our local businesses stranded for employees and our community dry. And now here I am, finding myself gripping the ledge, trying not to fall into the category of the displaced.
I am proud to introduce my column, Humans of Tahoe, in which I tell unique stories of those who live here. This month’s column is about Xochitl Perez, who, like me, grew up here before moving away for college and has now decided to return to Tahoe to establish her adult career. I hope you enjoy it, as well as the rest of this edition.