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The Tip of What Could Be

If the local housing crisis isn’t fixed, severe consequences could occur
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That Tahoe is going through a housing crisis is no big surprise to any one this winter, but the ramifications of the issue going unchecked could go deeper than what any of us imagine.

After sharing personal tales (see Out of Reach, February 2016) and a look at the history that led to the current housing crunch (see Tahoe Housing History, March 2016), in this third installment of Moonshine Ink’s #TahoeHousingCrisis series, we examine the ripple effects of this staggering community predicament.

Picture an iceberg. On the surface, we face stark statistics illustrating how dire the situation is in meeting our community housing needs (see below). But beneath the surface lays the bulk of the problem — a windfall of effects that have the potential to drastically shift the Tahoe community ecosystem.

Momentum is underway to address the housing problem with data crunching and community forums happening at a fast and furious pace. Heading the efforts for Truckee/Tahoe is a regional housing needs assessment campaign spearheaded by Tahoe Truckee Community Foundation. The team hosted a Regional Housing Study survey, open to all employers and employees, which just wrapped up April 5. While results are preliminary, a key finding shows that of the more than 1,300 employees that responded, 76 percent are overpaying for housing.

When more money goes toward shelter for a household, less money can go toward other necessities like groceries, medical care, school supplies. Likewise, when there isn’t adequate and affordable housing for the people in a community ecosystem, the other capital in the society suffers — the economy, environment, and culture.

Potential colossal side effects dangle heavily below Tahoe’s issue of unmet housing needs. Explore with us beneath the surface.


1) Developers Become Single-Minded

Maybe less well known is that the lower- and middle-portion of the market is suffering nationwide. A report released March 21 by Trulia shows that inventory for starter homes has dropped by 43.6 percent nationally, with starter home affordability down the most in California.

“They’re not yet an endangered species, but their steadily diminishing presence has some real estate analysts worried: First-time buyers are missing in action in housing markets across the country,” reported the Washington Post in 2013. “Big deal? Yes. If predominantly young, first-time purchasers are not entering the homeownership pipeline at anywhere near their traditional rate, at some point the system begins to choke.”

To borrow from the agricultural world, a high-end monoculture in the housing development world is taking root. What’s missing is political, economical, and cultural drive to diversify the housing stock. Preliminary data from the Regional Housing Study survey show there is a need regionally for high-density workforce housing.

“We are missing a range of housing,” said Sara Schrichte, project manager for the Tahoe Truckee Community Fundation’s Tahoe/Truckee housing needs assessment. The difficulty is that current zoning regionally does not allow for high-density housing, so policy changes will need to be made, she said, and some of the solutions include easing restrictions on in-law units and changing zoning laws.

blauananas/bigstockphoto.com; infographic by Lauren Shearer/Moonshine Ink

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Reader comments so far...

mickyd | brockway
As a tahoe ski bum circa 1973-1983, it is sad to see the results of changes brought on by time and the ultimate american desire for quality in everything. IE cars(bmw,mercedes,etc) homes(granite kitchens w gold plated faucet, etc) ski experience(rustic lodge vs. ritz carlton) and on and on. I would like to point out a predicment facing vacation homeowners, here is the scenario. Picture your nice tahoe cabin you strove years to acquire, now in need of repairs. Imagine, for example a deck in need of major repair, with estimated replacement cost of (avg bid) 50k, not including architectural plans and permits. Now consider that your cabin, originally purchased say 10-15 years ago for 600k has current fair market value of 540k. Now consider a laundry list of upkeep, repairs, maintenance, monthly bills and fees. No exaggeration here and not asking for pity, just wanted to describe another reality facing another tahoe dreamer. What a terrible investment, the wise would not pursue.

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October 12, 2017