The majority of Mammoth Lakes residents move here for the outdoor recreation opportunities. Most are willing, at least initially, to accept some compromise when it comes to housing. But sooner or later the lack of quality, sustainable housing becomes an issue for most residents looking to settle here indefinitely. In fact, we think it’s safe to say that housing issues are the #2 reason (behind employment) that would-be permanent residents ultimately choose to leave our town.

While not talked about much at the policy/planning level in recent years, it’s plain to see to see that Mammoth Lakes has more or less perpetually hovered in or near a housing crisis for more than a decade now—and that’s with 50-60% of our existing commercial/retail space sitting empty and more commercial development slated for our limited remaining undeveloped land. We feel it is therefore only logical to surmise that our current housing situation is a significant impediment to the town’s future economic growth. That is, unless an aggressive and innovative housing (re)development plan is adequately implemented and prioritized as we move Mammoth Forward.

The challenges our housing market presents are not out of the ordinary for a desirable location. However, our finite town boundaries and the lack of nearby suburbs serve to magnify them—as well as to present a unique opportunity. The challenges consist of high prices (especially relative to income levels), limited availability, high cost to heat & maintain, low quality, low utility, and limited sustainability. On the other hand, the town’s finite geographical constraints present a rare opportunity in a Western town to build inward—with emphasis on reasonable density, feet-first mobility and access—rather than simply to sprawl down-valley. Thereby maintaining our signature characteristic of being a tiny hamlet surrounded by was public lands with nary a scar in the viewshed.

The broad view of our local housing base reflects an inventory heavily-weighted at the lower-end by low-utility apartment style condos, most of which were originally conceived and built as vacation units and apartment units. This type of housing may suffice at the entry level, but it does not ultimately afford the long-term lifestyle most aspire to. On the upper end of the spectrum, we see a wide array of single family residences (SFRs) from modest to mansion, with even the modest examples priced out of the reach of most. What is clearly missing is relatively affordable mid-level housing with  adequate utility to support long term/permanent residency by the type of people we wish to attract and retain in our community.

Summary of Primary Issues

  • Polarized housing base consisting primarily consisting of the inadequate on one end of the spectrum, and the unaffordable on the other—with relatively little in middle
  • High base cost/rent
  • High Maintenance Cost (Heating, Snow Removal)
  • Low Utility (lack of: garage, storage, adequate parking)
  • Compromised quiet enjoyment (common wall neighbors, disturbance by transient occupants)
  • Rental Instability. Renters often displaced by changing SFR landlord agenda (significantly raising rents, owner decides to sell or convert to 2nd home usage).
  • Lack of vacant land zoned/slotted for the development of the type of housing we need
  • Lack of developers interested in developing affordable, quality housing…and a lack of a current plan at the town management/governmental level to incentivize developers to do so
  • Prior attempts to provide affordable housing by entities such as MLH viewed as failures

Potential Solutions/Proactive Measures

  • Reach out to/study similar resort communities to learn if and how they have handled their housing challenges. Where have they failed? Where have they succeeded?
  • Reinvest in Mammoth Lakes Housing now to stay ahead of the demand curve as much as possible and to ensure maximum potential utilization of state and federal housing subsidy programs.
  • Discuss and propose ways to incentivize landowners/developers to build housing appropriate to the indigenous economy we are working to build.
  • Publicly discuss/consider the potential acquisition of the town-central “Shady Rest Parcel” by TOML/MLH, which parcel may represent the largest appropriate location in town for the construction of needed housing.
  • Encourage the development of new housing incorporating appropriate and sustainable materials and technology to minimize long-term ownership costs and environmental impact.


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