Editorial: Housing at Lake Tahoe
On Friday, the Tribune offered a front page with two separate stories about interconnected issues. The two headlines read: “Home sales, prices strong,” and “Housing is the issue for a changing South Shore.” One profiled the continuing growth of real estate values this year, while the other focused on the effects of high real estate prices on a community where low pay is a reality for many of its residents.
Ours is a community in transition – most who live here see the changes, everything from the declining number of students at public schools to the changing culture of neighborhoods gaining in second-home owners. In our coverage, we try to examine whether this process is fundamentally good for the community, and if not, what can be done to reverse it.
The answers are not exactly black and white on both accounts. Businesses, and in turn residents, benefit from this social change in some ways. Those who own property see a profit when they move off the hill; businesses gain customers who are increasingly affluent, and run-down parts of town invite investment resulting in urban renewal.
On the down side, longtime renters look to other communities and perhaps wonder what is keeping them here. Housing is rising at a greater rate than local wages, and entry into the housing market is increasingly difficult for young families starting out.
One of the mechanisms used to keep young and low-wage families in a town is deed-restricted affordable housing. In our community, several groups and even government entities have worked to make affordable housing a solution, but an exploding real estate market has nullified the effectiveness of many of these efforts – even with low-interest loans, for example, housing exceeds many low-wage earners’ abilities to pay.
Many argue that it is not within government’s purview to supplement housing … for anyone. This is a reasonable argument. But promoting affordable housing is not about handing government money to homeowners, it’s about crafting circumstances that result in … affordable housing. A resort community can enjoy the fruits of economic growth while taking measures to retain at least some of the people, and with them the sense of community, who helped build the community in the first place.
Community leaders, both in the public and private sectors, who see the value of this connection between the future and the past deserve praise. And although the economy is directing our course, let’s hope that the efforts to create affordable housing result in it coming to fruition.
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