Tahoe Real-tor Talk: Future of vacation home rentals unknown in South Lake Tahoe | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Tahoe Real-tor Talk: Future of vacation home rentals unknown in South Lake Tahoe

Jennifer Fortune
Real-tor Talk

It is unknown what will happen here in the city of South Lake Tahoe if the City Council puts a cap on the amount of houses that can be vacation rentals.

Will it solve the affordable housing crisis? Will it make a few local people happier? Will there be more long-term housing for locals? Will the real estate market virtually crash overnight in the city? Will sellers find that they can't sell their house now that the city decided property rights belong to them?

I know, so many questions but no one knows the answers. So many unknowns.

We do know that, yes, there is a problem in the city and there are too few available properties to rent for people who work full time in our town.

We do know that yes there is a problem in the city and there are too few available properties to rent for people who work full-time in our town.

The economy is red hot and as it turns out so is the amount of tourists escaping to our town — it almost corresponds perfectly to the amount of sunny days and snowfall in Tahoe this year.

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It is clear so many or almost all of us have strong opinions here in South Lake Tahoe. Do we correlate this with mountain town, living-strong bodies? Strong minds?

We know there is a shortage of housing all over the state of California. Here locally we also have a crisis, but how do we solve it? Do we build houses for local workers and not high-income second home owners?

How do we accomplish this when a good vacant lot costs almost $150,000 and permits costs $50,000, and then you have to build the home? Does there have to be government intervention? Has the TRPA (Tahoe Regional Planning Agency) made it too restrictive for builders to build homes that are smaller and more affordable?

Lot of questions, but not too many answers. I continually ask people in our community about this and I get so many responses. A lot of people do think that if we limit vacation rentals there will be more long-term housing available.

So we are assuming that people who can afford second homes here, who typically buy and rent them as vacation homes because it helps offset their costs, will decide to rent them long term? Then they can't use the home for the intended purpose.

I read the socioeconomic study that the city paid for and recently released. No harm in having a third party share with us their results, feedback and suggestions.

I read every word, but I was a little disturbed by the notion, as has been noted, that the city's data collecting isn't very accurate. I wonder how many vacation homes we really have at the moment?

Are vacation rental homes the problem here or is it the few bad apples who don't follow the rules?

And there is this perspective: How many of us would rather rent a home or condo when going on vacation than a hotel room? Personally, it is always my first choice to stay in a condo/home that has a kitchen. It’s also the most cost effective one, since I can do my own cooking, and I can enjoy peace and quiet without worrying about late night guests who I share a wall with.

It seems like every time I stay in a hotel I share a wall with the neighbors that come home and want to party all night long. At least homes have space between them.

The socioeconomic study: do we learn from it? It is very clear the few folks who hate vacation rentals in the city are very vocal at the meetings. I have noticed that they are mostly retired people who don't rely on tourists for their income. They want their neighborhoods to remain how they were when they moved here in the '70s or '80s.

Is the answer to really enforce the rules and make sure the vacation rental houses are properly managed by a property manager and not an owner who could be on a business trip in China and just simply not accessible?

I hope we remember who pays our bills around here — it is the tourists. Imagine if and when the economy collapses again and they all go away — then what? Who pays the TOT (transient occupancy tax)? Who pays the property tax bills? Who pays to eat out and tips the waitresses/waiters? Who buys lift tickets?

Be careful for what you ask for and remember where you live.

It is unknown how this issue will work out, but we know many of us will not be happy and it will affect our income. We do know that affordable/workforce housing will continue to be an issue here in the Tahoe Basin as it has since the 1970s. We do know that the TRPA will most likely limit development and continue to make fees expensive. We do know that it is hard for builders to build 1,200-square-foot houses.

I just hope it snows again this year and the tourists can help support our economy. I hope the city learns from the socioeconomic study and adopts proactive measures and not reactive measures.

We all need a place to stay and it is getting more expensive to live here. I wonder why the city isn't drawing funds from developers like Zalanta and Gondola Vista Estates — as most ski towns have figured out by now.

We will see how it all turns out as we travel into our unknown future here in Lake Tahoe. We do know that we love to live here and it is getting more expensive and we do need our tourists to pay our bills. I know I depend on the tourists to pay my bills as well as my husband, who is in the ski business.

Keep Tahoe Blue and Green and White!

Jennifer Fortune is a Realtor for Chase International South Tahoe Realty. Fellow Realtors, if you have ideas for stories or would like to share a story, please contact Fortune at jfortune@chaseinternational.com.

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