Guest column: Vote ‘No’ on Measure T, save jobs (opinion)
Yes, South Lake Tahoe has an affordable housing problem. Every other major city in the country is experiencing this crisis.
In fact, that’s just what the Tahoe Daily Tribune reported earlier this summer: the lack of affordable housing is a national and state issue, not just Lake Tahoe’s.
The cost of living is rising, and wages are remaining stagnant. This affordable housing crisis, however, isn’t being caused by vacation home rentals — in fact, many people like ourselves have been able to remain in South Lake Tahoe thanks to vacation home rentals and the numerous benefits they bring to the community.
One of the main reasons South Lake Tahoe has a housing problem is that the costs of building homes is excruciatingly high and the process is very cumbersome. The average cost of a building permit with the city of South Lake Tahoe that includes sewer and water connection fees with South Tahoe Public Utility District is $50,000. On top of that, architectural, engineering and survey fees cost between $12,000-$15,000. This is before a shovel goes in the ground.
With building costs so high, developers have to sell at a price point to at least break even and pay their employees, as well as feed their families. Housing prices are unaffordable and not within reach for working families in South Lake Tahoe because it’s very expensive to build homes here.
With fewer tourists visiting South Lake Tahoe after 1,400 (of the total of 1,800) vacation home rentals are eliminated, jobs will vanish.
We believe in healthy and sustainable tourism and many families have been coming here for decades. It’s the same families that come year after year with their kids and later grandkids. Many visitors prefer staying in vacation home rentals because they’re more affordable, provide more space, allow pets, and offer the comforts of home.
If they are banned, vacation home rentals will only be allowed in the tourist corridor, which has about 60 single family residences that could be vacation home rentals, and commercial areas.
Vacation home rentals generate over $100 million in tourist spending in the local economy every year. How will the local businesses make up that loss of revenue?
There is no need to make the off-season year-round.
Businesses like Blue Dog Gourmet Pizza and Lake Tahoe AleWorX oppose Measure T because they know that a reduction in vacation home rentals means less customers and less hours for their employees.
In addition to the $100 million generated to the local economy each year, vacation home rentals bring in $3 million to the city budget. The Transient Occupancy Taxes collected pay for our fire and police departments, repair our roads, and finance city services that all residents use, whether or not they support vacation home rentals.
Where will the city find $3 million if Measure T passes?
Everyone will feel the impact of Measure T if it passes this fall.
Last year, the city of South Lake Tahoe passed some of the toughest vacation home rental ordinances in the nation. These laws are working and address everything from occupancy to parking and noise. Law enforcement response time to calls is faster than ever, leading to quieter neighborhoods.
If Measure T passes and the vacation home rental ban goes into effect, there will not be any funding for future enforcement efforts. This means that the situation will get worse, not better.
The city will not be able to employ the code enforcement officers who are now in place and will have to go back to relying on police officers to respond to nuisance complaints, when their first priority should be dangerous crimes and emergencies.
Vacation home rentals will not go away but will be forced to go underground or into a “black market” and won’t pay taxes.
We urge residents to think about Measure T’s impact on the local economy and our community as a whole. To learn more about how Measure T will hurt South Lake Tahoe, visit http://www.savetahoejobs.org.
Mark Salmon and Jerry Williams are local real estate agents and members of the Sustainable Community Alliance.
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Hiking the spectacular trails around Tahoe this time of year generally means you’ll encounter some snow. Sadly, that’s not the case this year.