Tahoe’s housing crisis is everyone’s problem (opinion)
Tribune Opinion Columnist
Living at Lake Tahoe provides unique experiences, which can be wonderful and yet heartbreaking.
For example, I meet wonderful people who move to our community, and am later brokenhearted when they leave because they are fed up with struggling to make their lives work here. Am I being selfish to want them to stay here forever? Probably. But as we continue to elevate conversation around Lake Tahoe’s housing crisis, we need to take a hard look at the direct and indirect impact of losing talented people in our community and our sustainability if we cannot attract or retain talented people at all. This is not a middle class problem, and it’s not a problem of people living below the poverty line. The lack of available housing is everyone’s problem.
I recently had to say goodbye to a friend of mine, who lived in a hotel room for four months while looking for a place to rent that wasn’t a dump. This person, we’ll call her Red for anonymity’s sake, was an asset to our town. In the nine years Red lived in South Lake Tahoe, she volunteered for Lake Tahoe Wildlife Center and Tahoe Regional Young Professionals, she also taught disadvantaged kids how to snowboard, inspired students in her job at Lake Tahoe Community College and even started a small business. I can’t help but ponder the loss of Red moving away — someone who led by example, helped the community, and encouraged others to do the same. Who knows, maybe she could have inspired a future Olympic athlete to take up snowboarding, or supported an up-and-coming student to pursue classes that would make them a great civic leader one day; all the while Red was evolving into a great civic leader herself.
The housing crisis has a face, and it looks like my friend Red, as well as all the others who have moved away or are moving soon because they cannot find a decent place to live in this area. At Tahoe Regional Young Professionals’ affordable housing Tahoe Town Hall on Aug. 17 from 6-7:30 p.m. at the Tahoe Beach Retreat’s conference center, the issues, effects and solutions to Lake Tahoe’s housing problem will be brought up. I encourage folks to attend to learn more or submit a question online and join us via live stream: http://www.tahoetryp.org/member-benefits/civic-engagement.
Our local housing crisis goes beyond the available rental market; it’s also inflamed by the region’s notoriously low wages, acceptance of sub-standard buildings and having the majority of single-family units tied up as second homes. It’s time to start peeling away the layers of this systemic problem so we can address them and work together to put solutions in place. As talented residents move away, our town loses much more than people to buy goods and services or pay taxes. We lose future contributions these people could have made to our community. Contributions that bring innovation, new ideas and collaboration to our home that make it a better place to live, work and play.
Jenna Palacio is executive director of the Tahoe Regional Young Professionals, a foodie and an outdoor recreation enthusiast. When not freelancing communications or running Lake Tahoe Community College’s Internship Program, you can find her paddleboarding, snowboarding, or relaxing on the beach with her husband and two dogs.
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