GM’s Corner: Number of second, third homes continues to climb | SierraSun.com

GM’s Corner: Number of second, third homes continues to climb

Steve Pinkerton
GM’s Corner

Steve Pinkerton

Happy Thanksgiving!

Those warm summer nights are a dim memory, while the first signs of winter greet us when we walk out of our home.

And when you head out of your home, you likely see a lot fewer folks in their homes, on the streets, and in our stores.

November is traditionally the quietest month.

Why do I say that?

It is all about the flows! Sewer flows.

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As I've noted before, we have a lot less sewer flow (and therefore daily population) in the spring, winter, and fall than we do in the summer — with November typically the month with the lowest flows. Our lowest flow months on record have been in November, as have been most of our lowest days as well.

I've written extensively in this column in the past about the correlation between daily sewer flows and daily population. I dedicated the Dec. 11, 2014 column and the Oct. 28, 2015 column almost exclusively to this subject.

And based on that sewer flow, it is likely that our permanent population is closer to 7,000 than it is to the 8,930 counted in the 2010 census.

While we've always had this great seasonal variation — there are typically 40 percent more people in town in July and August, than October and November. We used to have a lot more year-round residents and summer residents 10 and 20 years ago. Overall, annual flows are down 30 percent from 10 years ago and nearly 40 percent from 20 years ago.

Another key data point continues to back up the contention we have far fewer year-round residents. Our school enrollment has also tracked this drop in sewer flows. Back in 1998, our public schools had nearly 1,500 students. By 2010, that number had dropped to 1,005.

The past few years we'd average around 925-950 students. This year, we had a huge drop in elementary school enrollment, particularly in kindergarten. K-12 enrollment is now at 804 students — nearly a 46 percent drop from the late 1990s.

What does all this mean? As I noted in the past, it demonstrates that the number of second and third homes in our community continue to increase. It also reinforces the notion that many of our residents are spending more time elsewhere during the shoulder season.

I also believe that the flow data and school enrollment data demonstrate the lack of available rental housing in the community. As most of you know, rents have increased significantly the past few years, making it more difficult for families to stay in our community. The tight rental market continues to make it more challenging to find employees for our businesses as well.

This issue isn't unusual in second home communities. They've been grappling with this issue in the Rocky Mountains for decades. A number of nearby towns are holding public meetings on the subject. You might find this report from the Tahoe Truckee Community Foundation illuminating: http://www.ttcf.net/impact/regional-housing-study/

Since the publishing of this report, there have been a number of public meetings to discuss possible plans for attempting to address our affordable housing shortage.

I would love to hear more from all of you on this subject, and on sewer flows as well! Feel free to email me at sjp@ivgid.org.

"GM's Corner" is a recurring column from IVGID General Manager Steve Pinkerton, who discusses issues and offers updates regarding various district matters. He may be reached for comment at sjp@ivgid.org