Incline Village housing demand pressed by vacation rentals

Maggie Galloway, Editor

Drink Coffee Do Stuff fills in the early morning with locals who have made coffee a part of their daily routine. It’s part of the morning ritual to pick up a cup of coffee to fuel them for their day, whether it’s teaching at the local schools, working at one of the resorts in the basin, or being a retired ski bum.

Around 9 a.m., the tourists come to check out the trendy shop before heading to their winter wonderland activity of the day. Since the COVID-19 shutdown, “tourist season” has seemingly never ended due to being able to work remotely. Most second homeowners have decided to hunker down in their vacation homes and live in Incline Village full-time. Others decided it was the perfect time to follow their dreams and finally purchase a home in Incline Village to get out of the city.

Incline Village-born local Dakota Bursell noticed the never-ending summer as a barista at the local shop.

“I’ve noticed an insane and unpredicted amount of people moving up here from cities that are still in lockdown,” said Bursell. “Usually in the fall, we get a shoulder season and our ‘locals’ summer, but we didn’t catch a break at all this year. It seemed like the busy summer days never really ended. I’ve lived here for eight years and I’ve never seen it this busy.”

Cole Mizak, a local real estate agent with Remax Gold, has also noticed the boost in the Tahoe housing market.

“The real estate market all around the lake is the busiest it’s ever been in recent times,” Mizak said. “Inventory is the lowest it’s been, and we have an influx of both vacation home buyers as well as California buyers wanting to establish Nevada residency.”

255 Pelton Lane is a perfect example of the recent rent inflation. The three-bedroom house is currently occupied by five college students all working in the service industry. Kayla Heidenreich is one of these tenants.

“We just recently got a call from our landlord informing us that if we intend to renew our lease for this upcoming year, our rent would increase by $2,800 dollars a month,” Heidenreich said. “It’s so frustrating working in the service industry because I have to serve all of the people who are taking away my ability to live here.”

The big question is, what about our lower income workforce that holds the tourist industry on their back?

“Ultimately we’re going to need to come up with a solution to keep our workforce able to survive,” Mizak said. “With limited “affordable housing” in Incline Village, and with our town growing in terms of full-time residents, we’re going to need even more workforce to support new businesses.

College students at Sierra Nevada University also struggle with finding affordable housing. Being a full-time student and working a part-time job doesn’t make rent.

“Off-campus housing for college students is becoming extremely limited. As a reference for many students who may have lived in a popular condo complex ‘Mountain Shadows,’ these units are now selling for $700,000-plus. An investor will want to see approximately $3,000 per month for these 3-bedroom units. That’s $1,000 per room.”

With such high interest in Tahoe housing, some lower-income tenants have been pushed out of their houses due to it selling for over asking price. SNU student and Diamond Peak ski instructor, Emily McCusker, had her own housing scare this summer.

“Two months ago, my landlord informed myself and my roommates that he would be putting

the house we were living in on the market,” McCusker said. “When the house sold the owner would either A) give me and my roommates a month to leave or B) raise rent making it impossible to live there anymore. Essentially, were screwed. Working full time in Incline but struggling to find an affordable place to live while doing so.”

The other big competitor with affordable housing is short-term vacation rentals such as Airbnb or VRBO.

Marc Skully, a Tahoe local of 23 years, has his own opinion on Airbnb.

“The original intent of Airbnb was to rent out your house for short periods of time and make an income off your main residency,” Skully said.  “Say I was going to my house in Mexico for a month, I could make a good amount of income renting out my house while in another country. Now people are simply buying property just to rent and make an income. Most of those Airbnbs that are being rented out are the only affordable housing in Incline Village.”

For Clayton Green, one of three tenants in his McCloud complex, rent is $2,750 a month which adds up to around $920 per person. A condo in the McCloud complex is also on Airbnb for $241 a night. The condo essentially only needs to be rented out 11 nights out of the month for the rent to be paid off. If it was rented out the whole month on Airbnb the owners would make a profit of $4,480.

Jeff Forsyth, a local of 28 years, has also noticed the influx of strangers in his neighborhood from the short-term vacation rentals. “Do you think I like not knowing who lives two houses down from me,” said Forsyth.

“I don’t. I’ve slowly noticed the Raley’s parking lot being overpopulated with Teslas instead of Subarus with roof racks.”

College student and full-time pizza delivery man, Luca Giannini, feels like the short-term vacation rentals have taken over most of his neighborhood.

“I live in the Racquet Club and most of the condos are Airbnbs,” Giannini said. “I come home from late nights at work and it’s impossible to find parking. Some of the rentals are also up partying with loud music till 1 a.m. It feels like people forget that people actually live in Tahoe and it’s not just one big vacation for everybody.”

So, where will we put our workforce and students with our growing population and diminishing affordable housing?

According to the Washoe County website, the board is planning to meet on Feb. 23to discuss short term vacation rentals. Some of the current proposals are designated parking spaces for the rentals, wildlife resistant trash cans, quiet hours from 10 pm to 7 am, noise monitors for and a designated responsible party who an tend to their tenants within a reasonable time frame.

If you would like to express your own concern you can email [email protected]