Housing at Lake Tahoe, it’s something that affects everyone. From the locals who are searching for a place to live, to the businesses who struggle to keep good employees because they keep moving out of the area.
No one is immune from the problem. It’s also not a problem that is unique to Tahoe. Many resort communities that rely on tourism have similar issues.
We hear the stories every day. A local small business is looking to fill a job opening but is having a hard time finding a well qualified employee who lives in the area. The 20-year-old who was born and raised in Tahoe but now is trying to find an affordable place to rent. The family whose landlord just gave them notice to vacate and they are looking for a new place to move in to. A young couple who run a small business and are looking to purchase their first home but prices are out of their reach.
On top of all that, we are currently dealing with the COVID pandemic and the restrictions on businesses that added even more stress to our community. It has brought many businesses to their breaking points, with some closing their doors for good and others just barely scraping by.
Many have had to lay off employees one month, only to try to rehire them back a few weeks later. But sadly with so many locals not being able to find a place to live, the number of available employees has dropped dramatically. What will happen when all of the local businesses are back open 100%? Will there be enough locals to fill all of the job openings? If we are having a housing shortage now, what will it be like in six months during the summer? We need to figure this out now before things get worse, but how?
The short answer is that we need more affordable housing for our locals. But what does that entail exactly? The cost to build new housing is expensive in Tahoe and existing housing isn’t sufficient to support our workforce. So we need to find ways to add new housing developments and repurpose existing buildings that are obsolete. One size does not fit all regarding housing, thus the new housing projects should be multifaceted and include smaller apartments, larger townhomes, and single family homes. That way there is an option for everyone and every need.
That might be viewed as wishful thinking. But I am an optimist and I believe that we should aim high. I am also practical and know there are some massive roadblocks in the path to reach those goals. The main one being cost, as mentioned above. This isn’t an easy roadblock to overcome and has caused many housing projects to fail in the past before they even got started. So how do we get past the roadblocks? By working together as one community.
For our community to thrive we need a robust workforce and thriving small businesses. Those two things are the backbone of every community. Even those in our area who are retired want to be able to go to the little coffee shop where the employees know them by name and have dinner with friends at the locally owned restaurant that serves their favorite meal.
But imagine if that coffee shop’s owners have to move out of town because they can’t afford to buy a home in town, or the restaurant cuts back on its hours due to lack of staffing. See, it affects everyone.
Thankfully our community is full of “helpers” who are working to provide solutions to the housing issues. Included in this group of “helpers” are individual locals, nonprofit organizations, city and county governments, businesses and chambers of commerce like us. They all work together on this issue because they want to see their Tahoe community thrive. There are even a few projects currently in the works around the lake.
Finally, what can you do to help? What’s really needed is support. If the public and business community joined together with one voice and told the local governments that finding solutions to the housing shortage was important to them, it would make a huge difference. This means at the local level with the city and town governments, but also the counties and states.
My hope is that we can create enough affordable housing to accommodate our entire workforce over the next five years. I know we can get the job done if we work together. Let’s make sure everyone in Tahoe, locals and businesses, can thrive and enjoy the mountain lifestyle we all came here for.
Amanda Adams is the president for the South Tahoe Chamber of Commerce.