Tahoe Prosperity Center: Project to build real workforce housing at Lake Tahoe (opinion)
June 17, 2018
'Tis the season — graduation season. Congratulations to all our local graduates. We wish you much success as you head off into the world of work, college, travel and/or various other adventures.
We're all familiar with the cliché phrases at this time of year: "The world is at your fingertips" or "the world is your oyster." And two more personal favorites, both by Walt Disney "if you can dream it, you can do it" and "it's kind of fun to do the impossible."
But, what does the future hold for our Lake Tahoe high school and college graduates? Will they be able to return home at some point in the future and buy a house? Rent an apartment and work locally?
The answer is yes — as long as they make $95,000 or more a year. That's a pretty tall order for someone in their 20s. It's even a high bar for many folks in general here, who work as teachers, nurses, police and small business owners. Essentially, the people who help run our towns.
The “dream” for the Housing Tahoe project is that “if you have a job locally, you can live here locally.” And by living here locally, we definitely do not mean living in old motel rooms and moving every three weeks.
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Right now, the current median home price for the Lake Tahoe region is $490,500. To buy a house at that price your income needs to be $103,817. In Tahoe City, you need to make $118,000 and in Incline Village, you'll need an income of $194,000 a year to buy the median priced home.
So, graduates — if you want to move back to Lake Tahoe and buy a median priced home you should focus your degree on jobs that pay more than $100,000 a year.
But, I am not going to give you that advice. Because, another favorite saying is "choose a job you love and you'll never have to work a day in your life."
I tell my kids this all the time and my husband and I both are lucky to live this quote. He's a firefighter and loves his job. I get to improve my community every single day and I feel so fortunate to do so. But, without both of our incomes, we couldn't afford the median priced home in Lake Tahoe.
I hope that today's graduates and eventually my kids, can live and work in Lake Tahoe, but we have a lot of work to do ahead of us to make that happen.
Fortunately, the Tahoe Prosperity Center is working on exactly this issue. We just kicked off the Housing Tahoe project. We brought the local schools and colleges, government, private businesses, hospital, community foundation, large employers, agencies and residents together with one goal in mind — get housing for local workers built.
Our goal is to build a demonstration housing project that is dedicated for local workers and is a mix of one, two and three-bedroom units. This allows locals to bike, walk or take transit to their jobs. It reduces traffic. It gets families out of motels. And it improves our community in countless ways.
Lake Tahoe has been talking about housing for more than 25 years! It's about time that we "do the impossible" and build a local, workforce housing project for our new teachers, technicians and local tourism related jobs. Because those jobs are under $100,000 yearly salary. And we know we can do it because we have found such great examples from other communities to follow (check it out on our website at: tahoeprosperity.org/housing-tahoe)
The "dream" for the Housing Tahoe project is that "if you have a job locally, you can live here locally." And by living here locally, we definitely do not mean living in old motel rooms and moving every three weeks. We also don't want two or more families squeezing into small apartments. And we definitely don't want our local workers living in conditions that are unsafe, unsanitary or uninhabitable.
If you want to move into new workforce housing or if you want to build it for our local workers, then please reach out to us. Email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 775-298-0265. We want to hear from you. We want to ensure this project is successful by finding out what you — our local workers — need the most.
And we want to help local developers build needed workforce housing projects so we can add more! Most importantly, let's "do the impossible" so our graduates have local housing options when they eventually decide that coming back to live and work in Lake Tahoe is their dream.
Heidi Hill Drum is the CEO of the Tahoe Prosperity Center, a Tahoe Basin-wide organization dedicated to uniting Tahoe's communities to strengthen regional prosperity. She has expertise in collaborative governance and is a 22-year resident. Heidi and her husband John are happily raising their two boys in Lake Tahoe.
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