The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Lake Tahoe was already short on housing. Then the remote workers came to town.

Truckee, Calif., saw an influx of remote workers during the pandemic, straining an existing housing shortage and driving up home prices. (Video: James Cornsilk/The Washington Post)

TRUCKEE, CALIF. — Situated on the north shore of Lake Tahoe, Truckee has long been a place where well-to-do San Francisco Bay area residents owned second homes, used only for the occasional ski weekend or summer retreat. Then came Airbnb, which took even more homes off the market as they were turned into short-term rentals. What drove things to a tipping point was the pandemic and the sudden release of remote workers no longer bound to their San Francisco desks.

Seeking space to recreate outdoors in the dreamy environment of the Sierra Nevada, many came to Truckee. As the median home price rose to just over $1 million in 2020, many property owners found it prime time to sell. Many longtime renters were suddenly forced to find new places to live, an incredible challenge in housing-strapped Truckee. Posts to Facebook groups by locals looking for new apartments appear almost weekly, with many fearing that they might have to relocate out of town if nothing comes through soon.

“I feel like I’ve been squeezed out. Like you’re at the bottom of the barrel and you’re being dumped,” said Flor Andrade, who has lived in the north Lake Tahoe area for 10 years and is being forced to relocate.

With so many locals leaving Truckee, many are worried that the character of the place could be changed permanently. Others wonder if the new residents will return to their office jobs once their employers call them back, and whether Truckee can shed its “Zoom town” status.

“What I would view as success five years from now is a diverse economy and a year-round economy where we’re not seeing such ebbs and flows on a seasonal basis,” said Dave Polivy, who was the mayor of Truckee during the period of upheaval in 2020. As the owner of outdoor outfitter Tahoe Mountain Sports, he said it would be a “godsend” to his business to have more people in town recreating year-round.

Watch our video about Truckee’s uphill housing battle, the locals who are being pushed out and those who stand to gain as a result of the town’s staggering growth.