Friday, December 18, 2009

Tahoe Ticker Column 18 – Affordable Housing in Incline

Here are three interesting facts (numbers are rounded off):

  1. The average annual income for working people in Incline Village/Crystal Bay is about $44,000.
  2. To live in a 2 bedroom condo in IV/CB requires an annual income of about $110,000.
  3. To live in a 3 bedroom house in IV/CB requires an annual income of about $200,000.

These numbers will figure prominently in a soon-to-be-released report on affordable housing by the Washoe County Community Development Department. I think they have a lot of implications for the IV/CB community, particularly when you take into account other demographic factors, but for this article I want to focus on the impact it has on people who work in the community.

Relatively few teachers, firefighters, law enforcement officers, and others who work in IV/CB can afford to live there – some live on the California side, some in Reno, some in Carson, Minden, etc. One friend of mine who has been a teacher in Incline schools for 30 years works three jobs to afford a modest condo in Incline. When there is a snowstorm, safety officers on duty have to stay on duty and those who could relieve them can't get here to work.

The original plan for IV/CB was for a bedroom community, particularly for airline pilots. The same things that made it an attractive place for people who work elsewhere attracted retirees, people who work at home, and wealthy people who didn't need to work, as well as second home owners. None of these groups would naturally have their attention on or have a concern for working people in the community. Not because they are bad or uncaring, but because it wouldn't naturally occur on their radar. In another community, the needs of working people would be the natural concern of employers who wanted to attract and retain talent, but again in IV/CB circumstances conspired to operate against this.

First, the major employers are the County (teachers, sheriffs) and the Fire District. The County is remote from Incline and the relationship between the community and Washoe County has often been problematic at best. The Fire District Board is local, but not in position to do much about the problem. Other employers tend to be in businesses that traditionally don't pay well and whose profit margins don't allow them to pay much better – low- and middle-end restaurants, bars, and casinos, food stores, gas stations, etc.

As a result, we have a community with little or no affordable housing and an absentee workforce. I don't know if you see that as a problem or not – as a resident of Incline, I do see it as a problem in that it severely limits the diversity and the options for development for the community. Hopefully this forthcoming report from the WCCDD will have some solutions – I don't know because other than a few factoids such as those above, the report is being kept pretty close to the vest, including no indication of when it will be released beyond "soon." I sent an email to Adrian Freund, the CDD Director asking when it would be out, but haven't gotten a response. If you're interested, you could let him know at or 775.328.3600.

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