Kurt Reinkens: Affordable living with Grocery Outlet unlocks affordable housing | SierraSun.com

Kurt Reinkens: Affordable living with Grocery Outlet unlocks affordable housing

Other Voices
Kurt Reinkens, Eli Meyer, Brad Hays & Patrick McCuen

One of the untalked-about issues surrounding our regional housing crisis is the overall cost of living in Truckee and North Tahoe that stretches local families to their financial limits.

Housing prices in our region are undoubtedly high, but the compounding factor is the steep cost of almost everything else. When taken together, these combined costs create a deepening housing crisis that is increasingly difficult to solve.

While Truckee locals struggle to make ends meet, the grocery stores in town have benefitted enormously.

Economic analysis shows that Truckee grocery stores see more than $70 million in sales volume each year, and make as much as $907 per square foot — nearly double the sales volume that indicates a healthy grocery store.

Past economic analyses have put our grocery costs at 38 percent above the national average and Truckee residents spend an estimated $5 million every year buying groceries in Reno.

As the partners behind a Grocery Outlet that seeks to serve the local community, we see a significant opportunity to reverse this trend and deliver much needed cost-of-living relief to local residents.

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With a significant reduction in monthly grocery bills, Grocery Outlet can be one part of the solution to our local housing crisis. By saving hundreds of dollars a month in groceries, hundreds of families will be much better positioned to afford a mortgage or rent payment in town, or move into more adequate housing for their family.

This isn't some broad concept that we're introducing without doing our homework. We recently completed an in-depth economic evaluation of what the grocery savings at Grocery Outlet would mean for Truckee families. Using data from some of the most comprehensive housing and economic studies throughout the region, we found that the 30 percent grocery savings consistently delivered by Grocery Outlet could help up to 1,300 Truckee and North Tahoe families afford housing that is now beyond their financial means.

We came to this conclusion after analyzing data on everything from median incomes in our region, housing needs studies and retail data for our region. Then we applied affordability standards and average food budget data to calculate the impact of affordable food on a family's housing budget.

Reducing a family's grocery budget by hundreds of dollars per month and providing a discount, yet healthy, grocery option in Truckee will also reduce the number of trips families take to Reno to buy groceries — eliminating the stresses, inefficiencies and carbon footprint of a constant stream of Truckee locals heading to Reno for their shopping needs.

Our calculations estimate that Reno shopping trips account for approximately 25,000 annual vehicle trips and results in 1.5 million pounds of carbon dioxide being released into the atmosphere.

It's no secret that many of our businesses make their money by primarily catering to out-of-town visitors. There is nothing wrong with that. We are a tourism economy and many local residents depend on our visitors for their business's growth and success.

But what seems to have been left behind are the businesses that cater to our local community working their hardest to makes ends meet. That is our vision with Grocery Outlet — a vibrant, modestly sized market that helps locals find healthy, quality food at prices far below the levels locals are accustomed to paying in our tourism- inflated market.

Grocery Outlet fills an obvious and growing need for our Truckee families. It is one vital piece of making our community a more welcoming and sustainable place to live for the locals who are the core of our community.

It will bring healthy competition, choice and savings to Truckee's grocery offerings — three things that our town undeniably needs.

If we don't prioritize sensible, market-driven solutions to our skyrocketing cost of living, our local population will continue to struggle to put down roots in our town. With Grocery Outlet, we're committed to building a locally operated market that will deliver the grocery savings that can be one part of the solution to our housing and cost of living challenges.

Kurt Reinkens, Eli Meyer, Brad Hays and Patrick McCuen are partners in the Grocery Outlet project in Truckee.