If you want to have your heart broken, talk to some local folks who are looking for a place to live in the Tahoe/Truckee region. We all know it is tough out there, but exactly how tough is it?
Brutal. So brutal that in desperation people have put their lives out there for all to see on social media, pleading for an affordable place to lay their head each night in this community that they love. They figure, “Why not? I’ve tried everything else.”
Does it work? Not often, but sometimes. It worked for Jillian Peacock and her husband Sam Arcand. They shared their story on the Truckee Tahoe People Facebook page and after seeing the post, a rental manager contacted Jillian with a potential location.
“We had a really good reference in the area and that made a huge difference. Sam works as a locksmith, and his boss was able to meet up with the property manager,” said Peacock. “I know how hard it is and see the posts all the time looking for houses. I feel really lucky that we found this place.”
A tale of woe
Many others have not been so lucky. One woman I spoke with was born and raised in the Lake Tahoe area, and now is struggling to remain here. Due to the fact that she is a lifelong resident and is very well-established in the community, she requested keeping her identity anonymous, so I will call her Julie. In May 2020, Julie had success in finding a place, but it was only temporary relief as the lease was only for a few months. She lost her rental in October and hasn’t been able to find a place since.
“I have a great, well-paying job. I am a dependable and productive person.To publicly say that I’m homeless feels shameful,” she said. “I want to appear capable, strong, and give back to the community where I was born. I have no student debt, no car loan, and make a good living, and yet, I still can’t afford what is out there. Rentals are so unaffordable for people. I can’t find a studio apartment for anything reasonable to spend. There is literally very little inventory. I saw a one-bedroom over a garage for $1,800.”
Available properties are not only rare, they are also very expensive and sometimes comprise just tiny places without kitchens, or people looking for roommates to add to already crowded houses. Julie showed me a recent post on Facebook for a six-bedroom house at Donner Lake. They were looking for another roommate to share a room with four bunk beds — and to join the rest of the 11 long-term renters and a couple of dogs under one roof. Now in her mid-30s, Julie really thought she had gone way past the need to live with 11 roommates.
In her search, Julie has talked to landlords who had to shut off their phones just a few hours after posting because there were so many calls. She herself was contacted by scammers trying to rent places to her that didn’t exist. The pièce de résistance was a creepy guy looking for roommates who, after meeting her, said, “I’d lower my rent for you!”
“The reason people are turning to social media is desperation,” she sighed. “There are no other options.”
What do we do?
In a time of pandemic that seems to be taking forever to run its course, and a crisis in the local economy caused by said pandemic, the long-term housing problem might have dropped off the radar of those who are not seeking a place to live, but we as a community have got to face it. This is a huge problem. We are losing great people who are cornerstones of our community because they cannot afford to live here or can’t find decent housing. Adults in America should not have to live with 10 other people.
There are a number of efforts underway in this community to build more options or to convert second homes into long-term housing. There are public agencies and private companies, such as Landing Locals, that are making a concerted effort to solve the problem, but as Julie said, “Those projects will help, but it is not keeping up with the need. We could put 100 tiny homes up and they would fill up immediately. There is so much demand and these projects take years to get approved or built.”
It will take a herculean effort by government agencies and private entities to deal with this problem, but we must. And now.