Ribaudo column: Real reasons behind lack of affordable housing at Lake Tahoe (opinion)
May 31, 2018
When it comes to the housing shortage in South Shore the largest complaint and the biggest fight comes with the loss of housing that has been turned into short-term vacation rentals. But as is often the case, we get the headlines right but miss the real story.
From my view there are three core reasons why we are in the situation we are in and aren't likely to fix it anytime soon. First, the cause of the shortage of housing had its beginnings decades ago. Housing in California has never kept pace with the population growth the state experienced.
The population has increased almost 40 percent since 1989 to 40 million people. During that same time housing starts never kept pace — some estimates suggest the state will need to add one million housing units to meet the current demand. Given that local communities block almost all housing development due to traffic and crowding conditions, it's doubtful there will be enough housing supply to meet the ever increasing demand.
The second factor, and perhaps the least understood but most important, is TRPA ordinances. Specifically, regarding Tourist Accommodation Units or TAUs as they are called. Years ago TRPA created TAUs as a way to limit new hotel, motel and condo growth in the Tahoe Basin.
Unfortunately these TUAs took on an economic value, so when a lodging property owner wanted to sell their property there was an inherent value because of the TAUs were greater than the property was really worth. Or when someone wanted to build a new property they were forced to buy TAUs, which increased development costs to the point where a new updated property was cost prohibitive. The result: out-of-date lodging properties with visitor needs creating more demand for vacation rentals.
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Third, fast-forward 30 years with the introduction of technology, which could turn an empty house or a long-term rental into a much more lucrative short-term rental. The effect has not only transformed rentals but also neighborhoods and the community strife we see today.
I believe it's the convergence of these elements — bad policy at the state and local level put in place years ago combined with innovative technology of today — that have created the situation we are in today.
Will the two ballot measures on vacation rentals we anticipate this November fix any of this? It's a good question but I think they will end up being Band-Aids on a more complex problem. Until we build more up-to-date lodging properties and we make it easier to build workforce housing, the proposed ballot measures really fail to address the underlying problem.
The Big Picture
Voting is of course a personal matter but I was thinking of what makes a good politician and I came up with the following:
Good judgment. Do they make good decisions? Is their reasoning sound, does it pass the smell test?
Motivation. Do you understand what motivates them to run? Are they running for their personal ego?
Are they open minded and consider a variety of opinions or are they ideologues who make decisions regardless of what the facts are?
Choose wisely at the state, county and local levels.
If you haven't been, check out El Fresco Mexican Bistro out in Meyers. It's a go. I had the ahi tostada and it was first rate. The menu has lots of great option and it's made fresh. Check it out.
It's a Wrap
The city has hired a new interim city manager: Dirk Brazil, formally from Davis. We can only hope Mr. Brazil can clean up the mess and get the city on a better footing.
Carl Ribaudo is a columnist, consultant, speaker, and writer who lives in South Lake Tahoe. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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