My View: Notes from the Front Row (Opinion)
One of the most pressing problems in South Shore is affordable housing. Employee wages and the growing gap between the wealthy and the not-so-wealthy, all these issues are interrelated, but affordable housing has been dogging this community for a long time. What are the implications?
Several months ago, a report from the Tahoe Prosperity Center indicated that South Shore was short approximately 2,000 housing units to meet current needs. That is a significant number considering that maybe less than 100 houses get built a year, and most of those houses are not workforce housing where the real need is.
One tool to help imagine what that could look like is scenario planning. It is a framework to be creative and stretch your thinking and look at issues that could occur over the next five years.
In the case of housing, a couple of scenarios become very interesting, one in particular. What happens if we do not build affordable housing, or under 500 units over the next five years? How does that impact South Shore?
It’s essential to understand how we got to the situation, and several major trends have impacted the community. Reservation technology has enabled homes to be used as rental properties. Additionally, is the impact of the pandemic on housing.
For over a year now, people from other areas have come into South Shore and bought up houses, often with cash without blinking an eye as they tried to escape the impact of the pandemic. These trends have been profound.
So, where does that leave us as we look ahead at the 5-year scenario? To get some answers, I asked local experts and businesses, and contacts in other tourism destinations about their thoughts on the future. Here are some observations on the impacts of a no or low growth affordable housing scenario:
• A continuing widened gap between the wealthy (and those that can afford to house) and the working class.
• A lack of employees to service visitors and residents, impacting service levels across the board.
• Increased costs of rental housing.
• Expect to see some businesses go out of business without enough employees, others with reduced hours or service.
• A shift to automated services, i.e., self-checkout in grocery stores, kiosks, etc., automated motel/hotel check-in, etc.
• Higher wages for employees but not nearly enough to afford a place to buy and, in some cases, to live.
• If people decide to leave South Shore because of lack of housing, there could be a reduction in school-age children, impacting the school district.
There are bound to be more issues for sure, but you can begin to see the implication of a scenario like this.
— It’s a bummer the city decided not to open the Bijou Golf Course this summer despite the record number of visitors coming. It’s not clear what the city’s intentions are to close the golf course. Is it a negotiating tactic with an owner that controls access to the parking, and has a stranglehold on parking and the dates the lot is available? Or are they looking to close one of the few 9-hole golf courses in the region and hoping people won’t notice? Many people sure wish that course was open.
— How about a clear message on fire controls? There is significant confusion with all the different messages of the use of open, flames, barbecues, wood propane etc… You have a Forest Service policy, a Douglas County policy, an El Dorado County policy and a city policy on the South Shore alone. Combine that with different policies from other jurisdictions around the lake, and well, you get the picture. To be effective, we need a consistent policy that can be easily communicated to millions of visitors over a short period.
Ice cream! Grab yourself an ice cream once in a while. Look for the ice cream truck that goes through the neighborhoods. I love seeing kids flock to the truck. It reminds me of my brother and I chasing down the Mr. Softie ice cream trunk when we were kids.
It is a Wrap
Summer is here and in full swing, and while the place is packed, do yourself a favor and find a way, any way, to get out and enjoy this place. Be it outdoor fun, listening to music, or a Tahoe sunset. Do not miss the opportunity.
Carl Ribaudo is a columnist, consultant, speaker, and writer who lives in South Lake Tahoe. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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