Column:That’s Right, You’re Not From Texas
Texas is calling, and I am headed home.
It’s the state where I was born, and lived for 24 of my 29 years. It’s
where my family is, and where most of my best friends still live.
There’s something about Texas that calls many of us transplants home. It’s
even strong enough to overcome the undeniable allure of the Sierra.
Regrettably, that’s not the only factor which spurred my decision to leave
– there’s also the ongoing “Aspenization” of Truckee, which shows no signs
of slowing. I love this town, and I don’t want to move, but I simply
cannot afford to live here any longer. That’s not a salary complaint –
there is no realistic way for a weekly newspaper to pay employees enough
to buy a home in this area any longer.
In a community where “real” (not illegal second unit) one-bedroom
apartments start at more than $600 per month, it is difficult for anyone
with a middle class job to do more than eke by on a day-to-day basis. At
age 29, I’m past the stage where I want to live like a college student,
sharing a house with several roommates.
As for buying a house … it’s a rather blackly comic thought for anyone
who lives here and hasn’t made a million or two already. Starting home
prices have increased from around $85,000 when I moved here in 1997 to
around $220,000 today. For the conspicuously (and often obnoxiously) rich,
it seems money can buy happiness, and just about everything else,
including our town, but where does that leave the rest of us?
Some local workers have already made a move – relocating to Reno or Verdi
and commuting to Truckee to work. It seems pointless to me. If you love a
place like Truckee enough to work here, you should be able to live here as
well. There’s no joy in commuting to work each day in a beautiful place
and returning each night to concrete-covered suburbia.
Sierraville is another option, but prices there have already spiked
sharply in response to the Truckee market. Don’t expect them to ever go
Affordable housing is now and will continue to be an issue of crucial
importance for this area. Apartment complexes are not the sole answer.
Affordable housing must include subdivisions like those which have been
created in some Colorado communities like Telluride, which are
price-controlled and available only to local full-time workers.
If something is not done soon, most Truckee “locals” in the near future
will be commuting from Reno to work in their former hometown – employees
in a theme park to provide amusement for the nouveau rich.
Locals – real, full-time locals – must become involved now, if they want
any say in the future of the town.
Too often at council meetings, the comments heard are from those members
of the public who view Truckee as a playground. Council is receptive on
the affordable housing issue and is working to address it, but your
comments are needed – comments from the people who plow driveways, work
for local industry and teach Truckee’s children. It’s rough making council
meetings after a full day of work, but it is a necessity to make your
voices heard on this and many other issues of local interest. Working
class locals should keep the issues of affordability and livability in the
forefront. Otherwise, the future of Truckee could wind up being decided by
the new and growing breed of faux locals – dot.com millionaires with
3,000-square-foot cabins which they use for two weeks each year.
I’ve enjoyed my time in Truckee, and I hope to return to visit in the
future. I just hope the small town I loved and the friends I made will
still be here when I do. At least I’ll know how to drive in the roundabout.
John A. Bayless is the outgoing editor of the Sierra Sun.
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