Finding a rental: One family’s plight
When Kathy Howell found out in January that she was evicted from her East River Street trailer rental, she never imagined that six months later her family would be homeless.
For the past five years, Howell and her husband Leigh Nash and their three children have leased a three-bedroom trailer on Union Pacific Railroad property on East River Street from their landlords, Marcie and Gary Yarborough.
The Yarboroughs, who were granted a commercial lease from Southern Pacific Railroad (before the merger with UP in 1996), were subleasing the property to Howell and Nash. According to Marcie, last fall the railroad notified the Yarboroughs they would no longer be allowed to sublease the property.
In early October 1998, the Yarboroughs received a letter indicating the leases were terminated and all tenants had 10 days to leave the property.
“We started to panic,” said Marcie. “We told the UP that winter was here and asked for more time. The UP said they understood and that they would give leeway and extend the eviction until April 1. That was fine, but we all knew there was going to be snow still in April.”
The lease was finally extended to June 1, she said.
“We first found out in January that the railroad wanted the trailers off the property. We started looking for housing in February,” said Howell.
But Howell, who cooks for Squaw Valley Academy, and her husband, who works the graveyard shift full-time at 7-Eleven, have been unsuccessful in finding affordable housing in Truckee.
And because the trailer will be torn down any day, said Howell, they have moved out and are now living in a pop-up camper.
“Our hardest problem is qualifying for housing,” said Howell.
The Yarboroughs have given Howell and Nash a good recommendation letter, but they have been road blocked by a very small selection of affordable rentals, and a bad credit history and no credit.
Howell said they had been late with their rent a few times, but always paid and were good tenants. Because they cannot qualify for a loan, they mostly rely on the classified section of the newspaper to look for housing. The family also has two cats, and many rentals don’t allow pets.
“We can’t give up the pets. They’re part of the family,” she said.
At first, they looked into moving the the trailer into one of the trailer parks in town, but the trailer is too old to qualify. The Yarboroughs said they were willing to give the Howell and Nash the trailer. But the parks in town require that trailers be built in the last eight to 10 years; the trailer they rent from the Yarboroughs was built in the 1960s.
Three weeks ago, Gary Yarborough had to start tearing down the fencing around their yard, under pressure from the railroad, for which he is also an employee. He complained that Howell and Nash did let a lot of junk accumulate in the yard, around the trailer.
In the past month, reality has been creeping in for the family that they may be displaced. Howell is worried about her three children, ages five, 11 and 13.
“I don’t keep it from the kids. I don’t want them to hear mom and dad get all angry,” she said. “They’re (the kids) all worried someone’s going to come in and move them in the middle of the night.”
Howell and Nash’s family income of approximately $32,000 would allow them to afford rent of about $1,000 a month. Their family income is too high for them to qualify for housing in Truckee Pines Apartments, the only affordable housing complex in Truckee. To qualify for Truckee Pines, a family of five cannot make more than $30,180.
Howell said some people have suggested they move down to Reno or to a more affordable area.
“We came to Truckee because it’s a small town atmosphere. I don’t want to move out of the area; we shouldn’t have to,” said Howell.
Howell and Nash have lived in Truckee for seven years. Five-year-old Tina will start kindergarten in the fall. Leah, who just turned 11, will begin the fifth grade and Eric, 13, will begin the eighth grade at Sierra Mountain Middle School.
“I don’t mind being working class in Truckee,” she said. “They want the working class here, but they don’t want them to live in their neighborhoods . . . We’re scared. We figure we’re being pushed out because we’re working stiffs.”
Howell and Nash bought a used pop-up camper two weeks ago, and their church offered them a temporary storage unit for their belongings while they look for housing. They moved their belongings out of the trailer last Thursday. In the meantime, Howell said they will stay in their camper at different campgrounds in the area. As of Tuesday, they were still parked in front of the trailer. They have stayed a month longer than their lease termination date.
“If they don’t have a place to go, they’re not going to leave,” said Marcie. “You’ve got people living and working in Truckee and there’s no affordable housing for them.”
The lack of affordable housing in Truckee is an on going problem and one that may get worse, because the proposed Intrawest development at Squaw Valley could bring as many as 450 lower-paying jobs to the area with no set plans for housing accommodations.
The problem is recognized by town officials, real estate brokers and affordable housing advocates who cite the rising rent and property prices in town.
According to broker and owner of Tahoe Resort Properties, Sandy Casey, it’s nearly impossible to find property under $160,000 and rentals under $1,000.
And with a less than 1 percent vacancy factor, the supply is not meeting the demand, said Ruth Frishman, local business and real estate attorney and long-time affordable housing advocate.
The Yarboroughs will have to take care of removing and disposing the trailer from the railroad property.
In the meantime, Howell said they will continue looking for housing. Nash said that it may be a couple of months before they can afford a place even if they find one, especially with deposit.
“We can’t give up,” said Howell.
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