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Retirees boosting housing costs in pricey Douglas County

The Associated Press

MINDEN — Some Douglas County officials fear the middle class is being squeezed out of the Carson Valley.

“Many entry level workers can’t afford to live here. The diminishment of the middle class is a major worry,” said Douglas County Commissioner Bernie Curtis.

He said more and more casino and other service employees in the valley are moving to Carson City or Lyon County — or even areas of rural California — where housing is considerably less expensive.

But then, the cost of commuting becomes a problem, Curtis said.

On the flip side, the scenic valley south of Carson City is attracting more and more retirees, who have the equity from property they’ve sold in California and elsewhere to buy homes in Nevada.

“For those with financial means, it’s a different story,” Curtis said.

“Real estate prices have escalated dramatically in the valley in recent years. We’re not a secret anymore,” he said.

The area’s natural beauty, moderate climate, tax breaks and low crime rate have prompted numerous retirees to be drawn to the valley over the past decade.

Along with a rise in housing prices, statistics show a steady decline in school enrollment — a trend officials attribute to young families’ being priced out of the real estate market.

According to the Sierra Nevada Association of Realtors, the median price of a single-family home in the Minden-Gardnerville area reached $219,000 last year. That’s up $45,000 from the previous year and $61,000 from 1999.

In comparison, the median price of homes in Carson City increased from $138,000 to $174,000 during the same period. In Lyon County, the median rose from $123,000 to $134,000.

“Housing prices are placing major limits on who can live in the area. I fear we’re headed down the path to becoming an exclusive enclave for retirees,” said Bob Hadfield of Minden, executive director of the Nevada Association of Counties.

Hadfield, a member of the Minden Town Board who came to the area as Douglas County manager in 1977, said it’s imperative for local officials to ensure balance in the housing market so the region can successfully diversify its economy.

Additional challenges will occur as more affluent retirees move to the area because they will continue to put pressure on the ability of local government to provide services, Hadfield said.

Curtis agreed, and stressed the importance of a diverse economy to ensure a stable work force.

“Unfortunately, Douglas County is pricing itself out of diversity,” he said.


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