My View: It is expensive to live here at Truckee-North Tahoe (opinion)
May 19, 2016
Let's get that out of the way right away. Cost of living in Truckee and Lake Tahoe is expensive, from gas prices to house prices to rents and food prices. We do not live in a cheap place. That can be hard for many of us as locals to accept and understand sometimes. Why do we choose live in a place that seems to be actively pricing us out?
That is a common problem in all of the great places to live. Sure, we could all move to some depressed city in the rust belt, where you can buy a mansion for the same price as a shack here in Truckee. But is that what you want? Whether right or wrong, housing and cost of living are a challenge in nearly every resort community.
Keep in mind, though, that we all make a choice to live here. I would bet that for most of us, we could make more money elsewhere. But then we wouldn't be able to live in this great place. Maybe my priorities are off, but I would rather live here in an amazing mountain town than anywhere else in the world.
Listening to how the community discusses this issue, it almost seems like we have battle lines drawn and that we are ready to go to war. Or at least some of us are.
I have been impressed with our community, and with the many organizations and groups who make this issue a priority. That is great to see. We need to work together to find ways to help people be able to live here. As most employers will tell you, it is vital to us to have housing for our staff. We need to have places for our teams to live.
With all of this, we have to be careful where we cast the blame. The same influencers who make our community expensive are the same ones who keep us all employed and make this a great place to live. We have a great place to live because of the tourism, because of the second homeowners, and because of the growth related to our economy. As a small mountain town, if we did not have those positive influencers, we would not have the resources, the education or the culture that we have today.
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We have a tourism-based economy. Without visitors coming to visit this amazing place we do not have a sustainable economy. The reality is that as the numbers of visitors grow, so too will the second homeowners and the vacation rentals — both of which work to decrease the number of houses available, which leads to increases in housing prices. It really does come down to supply and demand. As our supply of houses decreases and our demand for houses increases, we will see increases in our housing costs.
Locals are necessary to provide the support that our community needs to grow. Without all of us, there is no great destination. We are the ones who work to make this a great place to visit and a great place to play. We need our police officers, firefighters and teachers. We need our lift operators, ski patrollers, waiters and bartenders, as well as all of the other people who make this a great place to visit and to live.
I have heard a lot of blame being cast over the last few months. From blaming tools like Airbnb that increase the number of vacation rentals, blaming the second homeowners for buying houses and blaming the local businesses for not providing higher pay. All of these are symptoms of our challenge, not the cause.
We have to find a balance. The solution is not to scare away all of the people visiting our town and enjoying themselves in our home. We need them, and frankly, our community is better off with them than without them. We also cannot turn a blind eye to the locals who are struggling and fighting to maintain a basic quality of life. As we see growth in Reno and the surrounding markets and what appears to be low costs of living elsewhere, we need to be careful of falling into the trap of the grass is greener.
I am confident in our community to be able to come together to solve this challenge. Or at the very least have ideas and options for how we can improve our home. We just need to be careful what we wish for and hope that we make the best choices as we find opportunity for improvement.
We make a choice to live in this market, and I wouldn't change that for anything.
Ben Rogers is the co-general manager and advertising director of the Sierra Sun and North Lake Tahoe Bonanza. He can be reached directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.