Guest column: Yes on South Lake Tahoe Measure T for jobs (opinion)
Local businesses are struggling to find employees in South Lake Tahoe. Teachers, doctors, nurses, construction, retail and jobs serving tourists are in high demand.
It is great to see opportunity available in our mountain town, but why does there seem to be more job openings than in past years? What has caused the increased demand in jobs and how can we fill these much needed jobs to serve both our community and our tourists?
One might look at our housing market and ask why a new employee would want to live where there are few reasonably priced homes to rent and the median home price is above $500,000. Plainly our housing prices are inflated and to a higher degree than one might expect for our area, even considering the popularity of Tahoe.
One only needs to look at new construction and a map of the number of vacation home rentals (VHRs) to see a key part of the problem. New homes are being purpose built as large VHRs. Homes used as VHRs both reduce the number of available rental units and cause the price of the few remaining rentals to be higher.
Even if a renter could never afford to rent a house, the conversion of a house to a VHR will cause the rental cost of their one bedroom apartment to go up because there are fewer places to rent. A reduced supply with the same demand results in costs going up for everyone.
The VHR companies would have you believe that jobs are the reason to vote against Measure T. I say that jobs are exactly why you should vote FOR Measure T. Yes, it is valid to say some VHR jobs may be lost, but how many of those same jobs can do the same work for rental homes and motels?
Maintenance will still be required on these homes if they are no longer VHRs. Our hotels and motels will need more house-keeping given a higher demand with a reduced number of VHRs stealing their business. This is a matter of changing who you work for and not necessarily a question of losing employment entirely.
Add to this that non-VHR jobs are not being filled due to lack of fairly priced housing being available due to VHRs. We are not able to fill these jobs because the rental market is pricing entry level jobs out of the realm of possibility. VHRs are making it harder to fill jobs.
You will also hear that passing Measure T will not help the low income housing market. To this I must ask, how does raising the average rental price across the board for all renters help the low income housing market? How does building new mega VHRs help the low income market?
Plainly, there will be more housing opportunities with Measure T than without. Our rental market is out of balance due to an excess of VHRs. The only options on the table are to allow a few more VHRs or correct this growing problem and limit VHRs to our business and tourist core. If we want to fix the problem, the only choice is to vote for Measure T. Doing nothing will fix nothing.
We all need tourists for our town to thrive. Tourists have traditionally used our hotels and motels as their primary means of staying in Tahoe and they will continue to do so even if we reduce the number of VHRs.
We also need to fill jobs and we cannot do so if new employees cannot afford to live here. Our existing residents should also be able to return to their homes and live in neighborhoods and not be surrounded by micro-hotels that residents are left to manage.
A vote for Measure T is not a vote against tourism, it is a vote for a balanced community. We cannot have tourism if we do not have employees to serve both the tourists and the town they visit.
Scott Ramirez is a South Lake Tahoe resident.