Housing costs driving families away: former ‘Dot’s Place’ tenants forced to move to Reno
Kindergartner Diane Nunez may have said goodbye to her new classmates last week for good. Her older sister, Leticia, brought home notes from her friends that said, “Please don’t go.” Their brother, sixth-grader Lenoel, was just starting to get used to middle school.
Their mother, Aurelio Nunez, said no one in their family, including herself, wants to move to Reno -their only option for immediate affordable housing.
For the past year, Aurelio Nunez, a single mother of four, has lived with her children in an apartment in one of the most talked-about-houses in Truckee -the house on Jibboom Street known as “Dot’s Place.” While the fate of the house was debated for its historical significance and its dilapidated appearance, never was the fate of the families that inhabited the house discussed.
Nunez said they received notice of demolition in August, and she has been searching for another place to live since. Her search proved unsuccessful, and when time ran out – after overstaying the allowed time -Nunez finally settled on the only choice she could afford: an apartment in Reno for $575 a month. Last Friday was move-in day.
Nunez, who has been working at her brother’s restaurant, Za’s in Tahoe City, was hoping to stay in Truckee, where her kids go to school and where her friends and extended family make up her support system. In Reno, Aurelio will have to find a new job and send her children to new schools. Her friends and extended family, who all live in Truckee, will no longer be able to help out by watching the kids when Nunez goes to work. At first she wanted to keep her children in Truckee schools and continue working locally as well, but her car is unreliable.
“In Reno, I don’t know anyone,” Nunez said through an interpreter. She has two brothers and one sister who live in Truckee and her parents and another brother and sister live in the Kings Beach area. She has lived in Truckee for 16 years. “In Reno, it’s only me and my kids.”
“I am a little nervous and fearful of Reno,” she continued. “It’s not like in Truckee where it’s much safer. Here, when the kids come home and I have to go to work, someone will take care of them. In Reno, I will have to depend on my oldest.”
Nunez said she had been looking for a place to live in Truckee for the past few months. She started buying the newspaper every week to look for rental units; buying a house was not an option financially, she said.
“Every time we inquired on a place it had already been rented,” she said.
She found one small house for rent at Donner Lake in her budget, but it was two bedrooms and she has four children.
She went to the county’s social services department, but said they could not help her. The wait list for Truckee Pines, Truckee’s only current affordable housing complex, was lengthy, and she said it may be a year before she could get in there.
While no affordable housing units are currently available in Truckee, there are some affordable housing projects underway and other condominium/apartment projects planned.
River View Homes, located off of Highway 267 behind Truckee Pines and the rodeo grounds, will provide 39 single family low-income rental homes based on a tax credit/home grant program through the Rural California Housing Corporation. The expected completion date for River View Homes is June 2001.
A new Sierra Meadows apartment complex, Sierra Village, recently broke ground on Martis Valley Road and Highway 267, will provide 72 units, 56 of which will be 2-, 3-, 4-bedroom low-income rental units.
But many can’t wait that long.
“It’s an emergency situation. There’s no place for us to stay,” Nunez said.
Some Truckee Elementary School teachers say the Nunezes are just one of the many families they’ve seen leave the school in the past few years for affordable living reasons.
Kindergarten ESL teacher Gretchen Heneveld said she knows of at least three families who are in the process of leaving Truckee to move to nearby “more affordable” communities. Diane Nunez is in her morning kindergarten class, and Heneveld is sad to see her go. Aurelia Nunez volunteers once a week to work with the class and Heneveld said she will feel their loss.
“(Aurelia’s) helped at least one day a week,” Heneveld said. “She’s an angel. I just hate to see someone like her have to leave.”
The students are losing out too; her class has already bonded with Diane, she said.
TES teacher Christine Duner, who also works mostly with ESL students, said that last year she knew two families that left the school.
“This year, in my class there are three families who could be affected by housing choices. I could possibly lose four students in my class this year,” Duner said.
She added, “People are moving to Reno and they don’t want to. It’s one thing when you see an opportunity and you elect to move. It’s another when you are forced to.”
It’s not just Hispanic families who are leaving town to pay cheaper housing costs. TES second grade teacher Marnie Henderson said at the end of the year last year, she had students in two non-Hispanic families move to Sierraville where living costs were cheaper.
“By the end of the year I had lost four families,” she said.
One mother moved in with her sister while looking for housing, Henderson said. She wanted to stay in Truckee so her child can stay in Truckee schools. That mother is still living with her sister and looking for rental possibilities.
This year, she has one student who is camping with his family, who cannot afford housing costs locally.
According to the Tahoe-Truckee Unified School District, approximately 181 students have moved out of the district between Aug. 1 and Oct. 10. TTUSD Facilities Accountant Karen Richey said that on Tuesday alone, the district received six notices of students moving.
This year, records show a total of 36 students moved to the Reno-Carson area; six moved to Grass Valley; eight to the Sierra Valley; five to Virginia City and two to Nevada City. The number of students moving out of the district during the first few months of school this year has already reached the number of students who left in the entire 1995-96 school year. TTUSD records show that last year, 60 kids moved to Reno, 19 to Sparks, 17 to Grass Valley, eight to Loyalton and eight to Carson City.
“I think there will be more in the next few weeks,” Richey said, adding that many homes that sold this summer are in escrow now.
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