Reflections from Stacy Caldwell, CEO of TTCF
Lately, I have been getting a lot of questions about how our housing challenges are changing in the Tahoe Truckee area since the pandemic. As the founder of our regional Mountain Housing Council and the programmatic home of the Community Collaborative, it is our role as the Tahoe Truckee Community Foundation to share what we are seeing and provide insights to inspire solutions. Yet, with a global pandemic, economic and political uncertainty, and wildfires surrounding our forests, insights are changing daily. Still, there are unique aspects around our housing crisis in our rural mountain region of Tahoe Truckee that come with living in a resort community, and other aspects that are not so unique, living in a state with one of the worst housing crises in the country.
The Mountain Housing Council brings together a committed group of institutional and community leaders that are working to accelerate housing solutions. In our quarterly meetings, we invite local community members to share stories that help ground our Council efforts with the realities of our housing challenges. In our recent meeting, there were two stories that particularly stood out.
The first story featured a local real estate agent who has been a long time supporter and contributor of the Mountain Housing Council. She shared that she and other residential agents are having the busiest summer with record housing sales in Tahoe. She shared examples of multiple cash-offers on homes in unprecedented bidding wars.
The second story featured a local start-up, Landing Locals, that focuses on housing our local work-force. In this story, much like the for-sale properties, we learned of the influx of new virtual workers from outside of our region, interested in sheltering in place in Tahoe. This has also led to competing offers for long-term rentals, above asking price.
These two stories demonstrate both the influx of self-described “city refugees,” and the challenges for our existing workforce to remain in our community and shelter in place. With a seller’s market, some of our long-term housing is now finding its way to the market and leaving long-time community members without a home. Some are able to find something comparable, but many are displaced and relocating out of the area and to nearby Reno, Nevada.
In addition to displacement, many of our residents are now unemployed. With rent checks coming due, we fear an increase in homelessness. While we are nowhere near the severity of homeless issues that our urban communities face, we do have homeless camps around our region. We are without a permanent shelter and the services provided for this population are few. Like other communities, there continues to be ongoing concern for infected individuals, who have no shelter to shelter in place.
To assist our families and individuals in this crisis, our region needs more funding for rental and mortgage assistance. The funding needs are almost unfathomable to meet the demand, but still, it is a solution. To that end, we believe that public funding is imperative to address this impending catastrophe that will only add to our existing housing crisis amidst a global pandemic. However, we see challenges in public aid distribution and coordination communities. As a community foundation, we believe funds intended to benefit the community should be strategic and take into account a level of due diligence that ensures funds are democratically and equitably distributed or going to the highest and best use…in the swiftest way possible. With the massive volume of need, it forces our nonprofit social service agencies to rethink the way individual and family funding support is stewarded. Not every family facing a rent gap to prevent their homelessness, needs a wrap-around case management approach. To that end, we recently made a grant to help build further local capacity for nonprofits to administer rental assistance resources in a more strategic and responsive way. We have provided grants to hire more staff, build out programming and leverage additional philanthropic and public funds. This ultimately builds a “readiness” for more public and private funds that may come to our region for this purpose.
In addition, advocacy is playing a more important role at both the local and state level. Our community has rallied around the hopeful passing of a tax measure that will increase the tourism tax to provide sustainable funding for housing solutions. At the state level, we have focused our activities on eviction moratorium to prevent a tsunami of homeless individuals in our state and community. There are two important aspects in our advocacy about this issue. First, to elevate both tenants and landlords as both being worthy of support and consideration. This is a very important element for economic stability in our community. Secondly, to recognize that if we do not take action today, we will have a growing population of homeless people that exacerbates the already serious health crisis in a global pandemic.
Our housing crisis is complex. With the added challenges of a global pandemic, economic uncertainties and even wildfires, it becomes crystal clear how housing is integral to public safety and community health. It is up to this generation, no matter the challenges, to protect our community’s access to stable housing.
If you would like to support our efforts to “accelerate housing solutions” in the Tahoe Truckee region, please give to TTCF’s Housing Solutions Fund.