Views from affordable housing series author |

Views from affordable housing series author

Robert Stern

Many of you, I hope, read the affordable housing series I wrote and which appeared in four parts between Friday, May 4 and Wednesday, May 9.

The goal of the series was to educate and inform readers on housing issues at South Shore.

The topic of affordable housing is endless and believe me much more research went into this project than what was presented to the reader, including the start of an entire section which compared affordable housing in Lake Tahoe to communities such as Aspen, Vail, Mammoth and Park City. But what I found is that, even though these are all mountain resort communities, comparing them – because for their different financial resources and land management issues – is like comparing apples and oranges.

I spoke with Nevada Sen. Harry Reid’s office, and although his press secretary said he is interested in solving the problem. There are no immediate plans to address housing at Lake Tahoe. It should, however, be noted that Reid was a suggested interview because of his favorable track record concerning affordable housing in other parts of Nevada.

Reid was suggested by the Lake Tahoe representative of the Federal Housing and Urban Development department. This member of HUD, who was a great interview, was not allowed to go on the record because of restraints imposed by the new Bush administration. Apparently they want everything to go through Washington D.C. Too bad no one over there knows what is happening over here.

No one returned my calls from either Sen. Barbara Boxer’s or Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s offices in California.

It may sound strange to call federal officials to ask questions about housing in South Lake Tahoe, but who else would I ask? The city of South Lake Tahoe has an annual budget of $18 million, 70 percent going to basic city services. Douglas County on the other hand has six lucrative casinos with annual gross gaming revenues of $350 million. Most of their employees who generate revenue for the state of Nevada live in California, and this little town takes the burden of housing their employees, schooling their children and providing other taxpayer funded resources.

In comparison to South Lake Tahoe, Douglas County is very powerful, but compare California to Nevada and what do you get? A different story entirely. California has more clout and representation than Nevada in the federal government, and I think it is time something is done to counterbalance the economic inequities between Douglas County and South Lake Tahoe. It is after all one community.

Granted even if Douglas County were forced to provide some sort of economic subsidy to South Lake Tahoe, environmental restrictions would not go away. But if the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency is so concerned that a little extra land coverage might detract from lake clarity, it puts me at a loss to even conceive how they sleep at night with all those power boats cruising around the lake each summer, especially those that enter the lake through the Tahoe Keys Marina (Once a natural filter to prevent sediment loading in the lake, and now considered by staunch environmentalists an environmental disaster).

The bottom line: People with boats and people who own marinas have money. People looking for affordable housing don’t. It’s a tale as old as time itself.

Without low-wage earners this town would be hard pressed to make an income.

On the subject of Latinos in my series: The series was not to imply that all Latinos live in overcrowded or substandard conditions, but it would be irresponsible to ignore that many do; and that a language barrier and race barrier has created significant problems for a group of people who face many of the same issues the Irish, Germans, or one of many other Anglo groups faced in this country 100 years ago. Most of our ancestors were once immigrants, too.

Just put yourself in their shoes: You’re in a foreign country, where you don’t speak the language. Everyone around you has movie star wealth, and you have seen people like yourself evicted from their apartments for complaining to the landlord. You don’t understand the laws and don’t understand most of the news outlets. You have countless problems with your apartment, but you are just getting by and glad you have a place to live. What do you do?

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