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Working 9 to 5 not enough to pay rent

By Greyson Howard/Sierra SunKat Chawkins
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Truckee residents Kat Chawkins, 22, and her boyfriend Scott Donovan, 21, are tired of living paycheck to paycheck.

Both are moving out of town because the cost of living has gotten too pricey for their meager budget.

“I’m earning $450 a paycheck and just barely squeaking by,” said Chawkins, who works as a dessert cook at Sweets downtown.



Chawkins said Donovan works two jobs, yet the couple can’t save up enough money to put down a deposit for an apartment. She said they’ve been staying at the Alpine Country Lodge with their belongings in storage until they move up to Ashland, Ore., in less than two weeks.

“I love it up here,” Chawkins said. “I would stay if I could.”



With California’s minimum wage at $6.75 an hour, it’s difficult to make enough money to pay rent and afford living expenses in Truckee and North Tahoe, and the scenario is forcing some residents to find housing elsewhere. It’s also turning away those who’d like to move to the area.

Mary Ellen Lopez, Truckee Pines apartment manager, said the wait list for an available apartment may be as long as two years for a one-bedroom. Lopez said she’s recently had several out-of-towners calling from places like Arizona and Colorado looking to rent apartments.

“I’ve had a lot of calls from people in the past week who will be working at resorts in town,” Lopez said.

Due to the long waiting list, she said she refers them to other low-income apartment complexes such as Sierra Village and Riverview Townhomes, but they also have waits. She also suggests searching the Internet and the Sierra Sun for listings.

Lopez said there is housing available in Reno, which she took advantage of when she bought a house there six months ago. Now she commutes to work every day.

Anna Henningson, Housing Connection property manager, said rental prices are up to homeowners to decide. She said she thinks that is why the prices have rapidly increased.

“They charge a lot because they can,” Henningson said.

The Housing Connection Web site, which costs $39 for a two-month membership, features listings of 220 long-term rentals starting at $600 studios and increasing to $4,000 homes, she said. Henningson said the average price of a one-bedroom listing is about $900 a month. Having roommates is “the only way you can afford it on $6.75 an hour,” she said.

For Chawkins, those rental prices are just too steep.

“I can’t settle for anything less than what I’m getting now,” Chawkins said.

She said her monthly rent for a two bedroom-two bath house in Ashland will be $650. She said she’s excited to live in a place she can afford.

Rachelle Pellisier, executive director of the Workforce Housing Association of Truckee Tahoe, said people have trouble finding affordable housing because of the number of vacation rentals and short-term leases during the ski season.

She said vacation market prices in the town’s resort community drive rental prices up.

“For every year-round lease the problem is that it’s pretty darn expensive,” Pellisier said.

She said a lot of people are spending 50 percent of their median income to live in town.

The Gray’s Crossing apartments currently under construction will provide 92 units of low-income housing by next summer, she said. Pacific West Community developers are in the approval process of another complex near Alder Creek Middle School, she said.

“We’re trying to provide opportunities … it doesn’t happen overnight,” she said.


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