Tahoe-Truckee housing study ‘confirms what we already knew’ | SierraSun.com

Tahoe-Truckee housing study ‘confirms what we already knew’

TRUCKEE, Calif. — Sixty-five percent of homes in Tahoe-Truckee were vacant between 2010 and 2014, according to a study commissioned by the Tahoe Truckee Community Foundation.

It's one of many statistics included in the final version of the foundation's 424-page 2016 Regional Housing Study, released online Aug. 5 after months of preparation, community meetings and surveys.

Since that release, community leaders have been slow to address what's next.

"To me, the study confirms what we already knew," Truckee Town Manager Tony Lashbrook said in an interview this week. "There's a housing crisis in the region — much like it was before the recession, maybe worse."

According to the report, an estimated 5,500 new residents are expected to call North Lake Tahoe home between 2015 and 2030, amounting to 2,720 new households.

The report also states an estimated 4,000 new jobs will be brought to the region during the same time period.

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The town of Truckee, Placer County, Nevada County and the Workforce Housing Association funded the study, which was completed by BAE Urban Economics.

TTCF is scheduled to present the study's findings at the next Truckee Town Council meeting, scheduled for 6 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 23.

"That'll be kind of a launch point for us," Lashbrook said.

After the presentation, he said, staff and the council will begin talks on what's next for the community.

"The town's got a number of initiatives on the way, like the artist lofts," he said.

The 77-unit Truckee Artist Lofts — part of the already approved Railyard development planned directly east of downtown — are a low-income housing development similar to Sacramento's Warehouse Artist Lofts.

The loft-style apartments, which are income-based, would reportedly range from $402-$805 a month for studios; $431-$863 for one-bedrooms; $518-1,036 for two-bedrooms; and $598-$1,197 for three-bedrooms.

Another example is the "Barsell" property located next to the Truckee Cemetery near downtown; preliminary plans call for the town to commit $1 million for construction of 138 market-rate apartment units on the site.

"It's going to take a lot of effort to make a dent in the issue," said Lashbrook, who added that providing enough affordable housing to meet the community's needs will take years.

'IMPROVEMENTS IN THE YEARS TO COME'

Jennifer Merchant, Placer County Deputy CEO for Tahoe, said her office plans to work internally with the county's development department, as well as health and human services, to assess the study's findings in relation to the Lake Tahoe Basin (which is governed by various different sets of rules than within the town of Truckee).

"We hope to work with the Tahoe Truckee Community Foundation to come up with some recommendations to present to the board of supervisors this fall," she said.

The board's Tahoe meeting is tentatively set for Oct. 25 and Oct. 26, though the location has yet to be determined, according to the county's website.

Some county communities, like Roseville, have inclusionary requirements that basically require new housing developments to designate a certain number of housing units as affordable housing.

Further, San Francisco voters recently voted to increase the city's inclusionary housing requirement.

Merchant said Placer County and its unincorporated communities have no such requirement, but it is something staff plans to consider.

She said the county generally asks that new developments provide housing for workers in 50 percent of the jobs they create, but it isn't a requirement at this time.

"I'm optimistic we'll see improvements in the years to come," she said.

One of the most prominent critiques of any new development within the Lake Tahoe Basin is the lack of affordable housing in the region, but Merchant said redevelopment and workforce housing are not mutually exclusive — in fact, they're linked.

"It's not like we're saying we're going to do all this other development and exclude affordable housing," she said. "Affordable housing is an important thing that we're pushing for with other development."

She said Placer County is interested in incentivizing affordable housing and in creating sustainable downtown communities that support fewer trips by car.

"One of the key agents of our regional plans is to intensify development in our downtown areas so that we don't have people driving in and out of the basin … so that they can get around without a car," she said.

"That's the kind of affordable housing we're trying to incentivize, and they will have affordable housing requirements."

SLOW START TO SOLUTIONS

According to the study, BAE Urban Economics suggests three courses of action as potential solutions: development of a Regional Workforce Housing Action Plan across all of Truckee and North Tahoe; formation of a Truckee North Tahoe Regional Housing Council, to be governed by a volunteer board; and for government agencies to consider better use of public land that could be leveraged to assist in workforce housing production.

While agencies like the town of Truckee and Placer County are starting to look at assessing the study and its recommendations, TTCF recently created a "Housing Solutions Fund," meant to attract essential funding from donors, foundations, and public funds as our first step to implement real community solutions.

In an interview this week, TTCF Project Manager Sara Schrichte said there are no donors committed to the fund at this point.

The foundation also is looking at the housing council recommendation and what that may entail.

"Really what we're looking at are three steps: the fund, the council — which we're working on developing. Part of that is having a group of people who agree on a basic strategy," she said. "We don't know who that is yet."

Though it has yet to be determined who will make up the council, Schrichte said she envisions it as an organization that includes TTCF partners, but is ultimately led by the foundation.

"The third piece is the action plan, which will be the work of that council," she said.

Schrichte said the study is a lot to digest, and right now the foundation is still trying to generate community discussion and gather ideas for potential solutions.

There are currently no dates set for community meetings to discuss potential housing solutions.

According to a TTCF press release, a series of "solutions based journalistic videos" is expected to be released later this year by Elevate Tahoe.

Elevate Tahoe is a "partnership comprised of three local companies" — Moonshine Ink, SBS Media House and Tahoe Truckee Community Foundation — according to Elevate Tahoe's Facebook page.

Read the study

Visit ttcf.net/impact/regional-housing-study to read the full 424-page study as well as an 18-page summary on TTCF’s website.

Tell us your story

Have you struggled with housing in Truckee or Tahoe? We want to hear from you. Email reporter Amanda Rhoades at arhoades@sierrasun.com or tweet her @akrhoades.