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Consultant: Maximize density for affordable housing

Truckee may have to develop above historic density levels if it wants a real shot at maximizing affordable housing in the coming years, according to a consultant hired by the town to study local affordable housing issues.

Bay Area Economics (BAE) presented the Truckee Town Council and Town of Truckee Planning Commission with its findings on affordable and seasonal worker housing needs Wednesday night.

The council and commission asked the company to study housing authorities in towns similar to Truckee, look briefly at costs service sector workers add to infrastructure of the town, and address questions over the accuracy of the land values stated in the report.



BAE spokesman Alexander Quinn said the report assessed all vacant land that was zoned at a density to accommodate affordable housing projects. The report stated that apart from the 505 units planned, approved, or already constructed, the town had the potential to construct 433 very low-, low-, and moderate-income housing units.

Although the town has made substantial progress in affordable housing, Quinn said Truckee will have to develop above historic density levels and collaborate with affordable housing developers to tackle a problem that extends outside of the town limits; where Nevada and Placer County seasonal workers seek inexpensive housing in town.



Community Development Director Tony Lashbrook said, “We actually met our fair share allocation of very low- and low-income housing for the [previous] planning period.” However, he admitted that meeting the current state-required allocation of very low-, low- and moderate income units will be more of a challenge.

“It’s a different world than it was seven or eight years ago. We can meet our fair share allocation but it will be tight,” he said.

The type of development the study suggested would have developers maxing out the density allowed by zoning. Town Planner Duane Hall noted that most projects have not met the maximum density, with most averaging between eight and 12 units per acre.

“It seems that 12 to an acre is the maximum that we can achieve with these lots,” he said.

Public comment on the study raised concern over the income levels which the state uses to require housing allocations. The levels, which are dictated by the Nevada County averages, are “grossly inaccurate” for Truckee, said John Falk, who represented the Tahoe Sierra Board of Realtors. Falk also urged the town to “get rid of artificial scarcity through zoning.”

Breeze Cross, president of the Workforce Housing Association of Truckee Tahoe, agreed that this discrepancy between county and Truckee income levels was significant.

“The very low-income families in Truckee don’t qualify for very low-income housing,” he said.

The second report presented by BAE painted a picture of the seasonal workers who fluctuate in and out of Truckee and the employers that hire them.

According to the study – conducted from July 2001 to June 2002 – there are 2,920 seasonal workers in the Truckee region. About 40 percent, or 1,220 seasonal workers, live in town.

Most of the workers are between 18 and 30 years old and single, and surprisingly, more than half live in Truckee year round. Fifty-four percent spent more than 30 percent of their gross income in rent, and 44 percent said rent was unaffordable.

Employers that were surveyed said the availability of affordable housing in the area greatly affects there ability to recruit employees.

Quinn noted that the study briefly examined programs across the country that address seasonal worker housing. Housing Linkage programs that require employers to provide 20 percent of housing needs generated by new resort development, were mentioned. Other programs included deed restrictions to keep housing affordable, dormitory-style units, and inclusionary housing, where developers are required or encouraged to include very low-, low- or moderate-income homes in above moderate-income projects.

“Keep in mind that Truckee is already doing a lot,” Quinn said.

Joseph Guzman, executive director of Workforce Housing Association of Truckee Tahoe, agreed.

“We’ve looked at other entities in the region and no one else has done these types of studies,” he said.

The public comment period ended with several people encouraging the town to streamline the planning process, allowing developers to move desired affordable housing projects through the planning phase with greater ease. Truckee Mayor Ted Owens noted that the Contractors Association of Truckee Tahoe is working with the planning department on this issue.

Owens ended the meeting by reminding everyone that the study was meant to identify the need and demand for affordable housing and not to identify solutions.

Affordable housing will be discussed further at the General Plan workshop on Dec. 11.

More information on these issues, as well as meeting times, can be found at http://www.sierrasun.com or http://www.truckee2025.org.


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