Is Lake Tahoe Housing Too Expensive?

1 year ago

The face of Lake Tahoe's population is changing by the day. With the onset of many lower-income jobs and the flux of workers in the job force who are making the federal minimum wage, the financial situation of the region's population has been shifting. Along with this shift comes the inevitable shift in the housing situation. With incomes and housing rates in flux, Lake Tahoe's housing situation has been steadily worsening and may very well reach a crisis point in the near future.

And it's not just here in Lake Tahoe. In many areas of the US, a recent study finds, the average minimum-wage worker cannot afford the rent and utilities on an average apartment. This study assumes that no more than 30% of a worker's income goes towards rent and utilities- the government considers a percentage higher than that to be too much. In a country where owning a home is a major status symbol, it is a cause of real concern when a large segment of the population cannot even afford to rent one. Are real estate costs getting out of control?

For an average two-bedroom rental apartment in the United States, the average worker must earn, according to the government, in the area of $15 an hour. With the minimum wage currently at about a third of that amount, the fact is that many families cannot afford to keep the roofs over their heads, much less save money to someday buy a home. The fact remains that wage increases have simply not kept up with the booming costs of real estate rentals and utility costs here in Lake Tahoe.

While rent costs are climbing, utility costs are climbing faster still. And it's also worth noting that in areas where housing costs are lower, wages are on average also lower, so there is not much benefit to be gained by relocating. The minimum wage has not changed in the United States since 1997, while the costs of housing continue to rise.

The US government has also fallen behind on their spending towards Section 8 rental vouchers, which help low-income people pay their rent. More landlords than ever before, particularly in metropolitan areas, accept Section 8 vouchers; but since government spending towards these vouchers has not kept up with demand, they are becoming more and more difficult to get. As housing costs increase in and around Lake Tahoe, those who depended on Section 8 can no longer do so.

Not surprisingly, rent in rural areas is the most affordable, and California is at the top of the list when it comes to hourly income needed to afford a typical apartment. It's a difficult situation for anyone who is having trouble making their rent: The option to move somewhere cheaper, but make less money, is not much of an option.

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