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Unaffordable housing makes living fun

Darin Olde, Guest columnist

Picked up a hitchhiker the other day.

Nice guy.

I was on my way home, driving up Northwoods to the very tip-top of Tahoe Donner. The guy was just standing there, looking innocent enough. So I decided to pick him up.

Never caught his name, but he was a real down-to-earth kind-of-guy (quiet, but attentive).

He said he was on his way to check out a house for rent.

He had been couch surfing with friends for a few weeks. Couch surfing was all right, he said, but he wouldn’t last if he didn’t find a place soon.

I had to laugh.

“Oh, you’ll find a place soon enough,” I said. “It’s not that hard. And believe me, I understand what it’s like.”

I’d been there, depending on the hospitality of people you knew were friends, drinking canned beer, laughing until we started crying and then drifting into a catatonic sleep.

Yep, I could relate. It took me a long time to find a place. But it was worth it. I like my place, and my roommates, all five of them.

It wasn’t so easy to find. I too started in employee housing (at the Royal Gorge Cross-Country Ski Resort).

What an unforgettable experience. I was one of three Americans in a house of nine people. Everyone was nice, though, except for the “she-devil” from Denmark.

Jamie, one of the Americans, was exceptionally intelligent. She was taking a break from her job in the Bay, preparing for graduate school. This was her escape. I liked her, but she didn’t stay more than a few weeks.

And Tony. How could I forget Tony? I let him borrow my new car one night; he said his mother was going under the knife for appendicitis the following morning.

He couldn’t tolerate the thought of her alone. He needed a car, so I obliged.

Only later did I discover he went down to Carson City to meet his parole officer and go shopping. He ended up leaving his parole papers in my glove box. Tony wasn’t real smart. And he didn’t last too long either.

Moved out a few weeks later.

Next place was wonderful (view of the lake, three porches, nice kitchen, washer and dryer, the works). Things were going great.

Soon, however, my roommate moved to Long Beach to attend Physical Therapy school. The landlord moved back in.

The chemistry was wrong, and eventually we both decided it would be better if I moved out. It would be for the best, she assured me, and knowing what I know now, I agree.

That was tough. I almost cashed-in and moved. Then, a buddy found out and came to my rescue. He lived in Tahoe City, but planned to travel for several months.

He suggested I take his room.

“My roommates will love you man, you’ll get along great.” So I met Greg’s roommates and we got along swell.

But roughly a week before he moved out, his roommates got to thinking something like, “If Greg is going to move out why don’t we fill the room with one of our friends; and really, it’s not his decision.”

So, about a week before I planned to move in I was back searching the classifieds.

“Hey, what’s that!” said the stranger, looking through the opposite window. “That looks nice.”

“Oh, that’s Trout Creek Recreation Center.” I said, the azure pool glowing in the light of dusk behind us. “Yeah. It does look nice.”

So, then I discovered Truckee. This town, and Donner Lake particularly, is great. Only problem is there’s a one percent vacancy rate. There are tons of low paying, go no-where jobs – dime a dozen, really – but it’s exceptionally hard to find affordable housing.

“You see,” I explained, “one of the main reasons affordable housing projects keep getting shut down is the speculative increase in traffic. If people can find affordable housing than sooner or later they will be able to afford a car. The problems that could result would be really hard for some people. And even though many of the towns surrounding the lake were built on tourism traffic, locals know that tourism traffic isn’t a problem. Local traffic is the problem.”

Dropped him off at Fjord and Northwoods. I never did catch his name, nor do I remember the names of any of the people I’ve picked up over the last few months.

But I have this sneaking suspicion I’ll see him again.

Sooner than later.


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