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The Missing Middle
By MAYUMI ELEGADO and AMY WESTERVELT | Moonshine Ink
Will our community survive if its police officers, teachers, business owners, and those who have lived here all their lives can’t find housing? The answer is knocking on the front door, like it or not.
When Moonshine Ink launched its Housing Crisis series in February of this year, our staff hit the streets gathering 20 stories of full-time residents of North Tahoe and Truckee for the inaugural article Out of Reach. It painted a picture of the dire local housing situation, but even then we realized a key demographic was largely missing from the piece — the middle class. It wasn’t for lack of trying on our part, but rather hesitancy amongst middle class folks to share their stories. Most felt they didn’t want to admit publicly that they were in need and couldn’t find housing.
As the months ticked by, the situation has only worsened, and now everyone is talking about it. Long-time local families have had to pull up roots and move to Reno as a last resort, business owners can’t keep employees because there’s nowhere for them to live, teachers and policemen are being priced out of the communities they serve. As more and more landlords convert their properties to lucrative short-term vacation rentals, and developers continue to push for new neighborhoods filled with second homes, locals are struggling to stay in the community.
The following pages feature eight stories, showing the range of middle class households impacted by the local housing crisis. These are people who are making decent salaries, but still are priced out in this staggeringly high market.
There are some challenging realities at play: As a second-homeowner economy, our region is heavily influenced by the Bay Area, where prices have skyrocketed. Thus we face a reality where a moderate-income (as defined by federal standards)Placer County family of four, which earns $91,300 annually, could comfortably afford a $346,423 home, but nowhere near the median-priced $538,000 home currently being sold in Tahoe/Truckee.
According to a recent study spearheaded by the Tahoe Truckee Community Foundation (more info at right), there’s an unmet need for about 12,100 workforce housing units in Truckee and North Lake Tahoe, but only room to build an estimated 7,400 new housing units. The stories on the following pages are a cry for the remaining housing stock to be reserved for those of us who live here, at prices locals can afford. Think about what it starts to look like when none of the policemen who protect your town live within city limits, or when the teachers at your kid’s school are having to live in RVs or cars because they can’t find housing. What answer can we as a community give?
~ Moonshine Ink is proud to partner with Reno Public Radio KUNR on this project. Amy Westervelt of KUNR recorded the interviews for this story — listen to them at moonshineink.com. The radio station also will broadcast news stories based on these housing tales and produce longer podcast episodes set to be aired in December. You’ll find links to all of those pieces on our website and at kunr.org.
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