Understaffing, inflated rentals still persistent Tahoe issue
TAHOE CITY, Calif. – Longtime West Shore resident James Wolford sits outside at sunset to enjoy another alpine summer night, there’s just one thing missing: his wife is running late coming home from work, again.
The local U.S. Post Office is Tahoe City is one of the many local businesses still struggling with understaffing in the Tahoe Basin. According to Wolford, there are only two employees currently running the location, his wife and the post runner. With local businesses feeling the strain of lack of employees, there is justifiable reason as to why businesses are running short-handed.
“This situation has been building up for quite some time,” Wolford said. “Tahoe’s become so expensive that our local businesses that keep this town in business don’t pay enough for people to live here.”
Lack of affordable housing has been a growing issue throughout the local communities over the past two years, and well into 2022, homes are still being purchased and rented at an alarming rate; ultimately leaving little wiggle room for those looking for cost-effective housing. With the pandemic presenting the option for many to work remotely, it has resulted in an enormous influx of people into the local communities of new residents who have moved into their second homes or purchased new homes, and according to Wolford, some even kicking renters out.
According to a report published by Redfin, the average sale price for a home in Lake Tahoe and Truckee in June 2022 is currently $1.2 million; and according to a report published by Zillow, the median rent in South Lake Tahoe is currently $3,000/month vs. Tahoe City and Incline Village’s median rental rate at $4,000/month, and Truckee’s median rate at $4,250/month.
There is a small number of home rentals available at any given time in Tahoe and Truckee communities. Wolford’s solution is to proactively continue bridging the gap between the millionaires and average income earners of the community is to help support the idea for not only a livable wage, but also sustainable housing.
When analyzing the understaffing currently happening around the Tahoe Basin, while many businesses slowed down during the pandemic, Tahoe and Truckee’s local USPS locations did the complete opposite. With lack of local employees, it’s been tough to find prospective employees that live full-time and locally in the Tahoe/Truckee area. According to David Rupert, Lake Tahoe’s Regional Strategic Communications Specialist for USPS, said there is a continual need for new employees.
“We are actively continuing to hire all around the Tahoe Basin and in Truckee,” Rupert said. “Unlike some businesses that saw their workload drop due to the pandemic, the mail has remained steady, and we are continuing to grow and expand.”
While the lack of affordable housing has been a lake-wide issue for quite some time, finding prospective work is typically not. Through large platforms such as Indeed, the list of job positions currently open ranges from positions in housekeeping to administrative roles with local city officials. Right now, Indeed features over 1,000 jobs in a single community around the Tahoe area.
At the various USPS post office locations around Lake Tahoe, there is a need specifically for entry-level positions, and these positions do offer long-term benefits, providing consistent work and security, which many local jobs don’t typically offer. These entry-level positions are currently being offered for Truckee, Tahoe City, and South Lake Tahoe locations and each location is actively taking applicants.
“There are currently 25 total openings lake-wide, including Truckee, to work with USPS,” Rupert said. “We have needs both in the office as a clerk and work for rural carriers. Eventually, there will be opportunities for many of these new hires to transition into full-time, career jobs, complete with the full array of federal benefits including retirement, health care, life insurance, and generous leave.”
Even with proactive efforts from USPS, there is still significant understaffing at most local post offices in the Basin. According to a press release that USPS issued in March 2022, the South Lake Tahoe post office did host a week-long hiring event earlier this year, hiring for various positions with various skillsets, with entry-level position pay ranging from $18-$23/hour.
While opportunities that local businesses such as USPS offer, for many the cost of living is still far too high to make it make sense. To further address this issue to make living in Tahoe/Truckee communities more feasible and to work these available positions, Wolford mentioned that housing costs should be better suited to the local community.
“I’ve seen a handful of homeowners want to rent their home out to locals, but it’s still sorely lacking,” Wolford said. “A lot of people have been working on getting the county board of supervisors to require employee or low-cost housing, and there’s a little bit of it, but really hardly any.”
The idea of implementing more affordable housing options has been a topic of discussion for well over a decade, and while there are some, they are tough to come by. In hopes to mitigate the understaffing and inflated housing rates, landlords and property managers must be part of the equation.
“One thing that could work to help get the word out and keep employees in the community would be if landlords could rent to a post office, or other service-based employee that we all rely on,” Wolford said. “It’s essential to our community, we need them to keep going. I don’t want to see this become a community of millionaires, that’d be crazy. That’s not what I think Tahoe City and other nearby communities are meant to offer.”
For more information on current jobs available through the USPS, visit usps.com/careers.
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