Families fighting financial odds | SierraSun.com

Families fighting financial odds

Joanna HartmanSierra Sun

Ryan Salm/Sierra SunMatt Grawrock, along with his sons Cael, 4 months, and Landon, 2, and his wife Duste moved to Tahoe from Portland last May. While they love the area, they are finding the cost of living high.

Matt Grawrock, his wife and two young sons moved to Homewood less than a year ago so that Grawrock could work for the Tahoe City Public Utility District. Despite battling financial odds, the Grawrocks are attempting to make a life for themselves in Tahoe.We really like it here, Grawrock said. But its a difficult area to live in no ifs, ands or buts about it.During the school year, Grawrock is in charge of the districts after-school program, Project Learn, and is camp director during the summer. He and his family relocated from Portland, Ore. to the Tahoe area because of the job opportunity.Grawrock, 30, and his wife, Duste, have been married almost five years. They have one toddler, Landon, and a baby boy, Cael, who was born here in September.Grawrock said the most challenging thing about living in the region is finances.Its not going to be a walk in the park, he said. Were definitely going to have to watch our pennies.Melissa Siig, 34, has lived on the North Shore for five years. She and her husband have been married less than three years and have two small children. She agrees it is financially taxing to live in the area, but says she is fortunate to own her own home. The Siig family could only afford to purchase their home because it is located directly in an avalanche zone, she said.If we hadnt found this house, wed be living in Truckee. Or Reno, Siig said. I dont know where wed be.Siig is a full-time mother, freelance writer and political science teacher at Sierra College in Truckee. Her husband, Steven, owns a landscaping business and films ski movies during winter. They both work hard to make ends meet.I love Tahoe; its a great lifestyle, Siig said. You make a choice, like career versus lifestyle.

Both Grawrock and Siig plan to remain in the area even though they say their resources are limited and funds are tight.Were planning to stay long-term, Siig said. [But] sometimes I look in Reno and see all the things they have to do with kids.For Grawrock, his biggest hope is for an opportunity to eventually buy a home.If theres a way to make it happen, well jump at the opportunity to stay, Grawrock said. We want to have that feeling that we own something.According to Linda Whitham, mortgage planner with Partners Mortgage, if a house costs $590,000, monthly payments would cost around $3,400 excluding property taxes and insurance. The potential homeowner would have to make more than $12,000 per month, or $144,000 annual salary to afford the average Truckee house.Grawrock said he is aware of how many other young families have left the area due to the cost of living, but still aims to buy a house within the next five years or so.But [were going] to take advantage of what we have right now, he said.

Though the Grawrock family keeps busy with economical activities like playing at Commons Beach, trips to the library or driving around the lake, they are still walking a fine financial line.Were using credit cards more than we planned, he said.Siig also likes to spend time with her family in the outdoors, but said winters are more difficult. She and her friends pool their resources, using the same baby-sitters or child-care providers and getting together for group activities.I think its a great place to raise kids, Siig said.Affordability, housing, employment and family resources are not only important to people looking to live in North Lake Tahoe and Truckee, but are essential for the economy. Schools, employers and business owners need a wide variety of residents and consumers to keep the market viable.Its really important to us [at the utility district], in serving the public, to have employees that live here or close to here, said Cindy Gustafson, Tahoe City Public Utility District Assistant General Manager and 24-year North Tahoe resident. As a community member it is important so that the community is a complete and growing community with all age groups.

Excited to live in a beautiful place and be part of the community, Grawrock looks forward to his life in the North Tahoe area. And Siig continues to be grateful for the people here and the place she calls home.I think you have to be fully aware of what the challenges are here and be willing to take those challenges, Grawrock said. Were hoping to [stay], he said. To make this as much of a home as possible.