State of housing: "Grim"
KINGS BEACH – During the first meeting of an affordable housing-forum triple header, business leaders and residents of the North Tahoe and Truckee communities took their first steps toward formally exploring the area’s housing and employment crisis.
“If we think the housing problem is bad now, just wait a few years,” said Phil McKenney, executive director of the North Lake Tahoe Resort Association.
The first forum in the series was held May 2 at the North Tahoe Community Conference Center. The resort association, in partnership with the Truckee Donner Chamber of Commerce, is hosting the series in an effort to better understand and improve the housing conundrum.
Featuring speakers from the Placer County Redevelopment and Planning Department, the Town of Truckee and the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency, this initial meeting concentrated on existing housing and employment conditions, as well as upcoming developments in the area.
Representatives from the county’s planning department bombarded forum attendants with an arsenal of charts and graphs – colorful visuals depicting the area’s spoiling disproportions. In short, the graphs painted a scenic picture in which the median income is lower than in other areas and the cost of living significantly higher.
“It seems like a pretty grim picture,” said Mark Heckey, of the planning department, at the close of the presentation.
County staff said the high cost of housing was not related to the local economy, but rather to the outside influence of the second-home market.
A survey distributed to members of the resort association and Chamber of Commerce attempted to gain a front-lines perspective on the housing/employment issue.
Area employers replied with pages worth of discouraged comments: “highly transient labor pool in Tahoe with marginal work ethics”; “most of my employees worked two or three jobs and still struggle and end up leaving”; “there are a lot more available jobs than people to work them.”
Tony Lashbrook, director of community development with the Town of Truckee, spoke to those at the forum about future projects in the North Shore and Truckee areas. Many of these projects, he explained, would bring additional service employees to the already low-wage mecca; these new employees will need an affordable place to live.
Though new projects are fairly restricted within the Tahoe Basin, outlying areas are rife with planned development. In addition to expansions in Olympic Valley with Intrawest’s development and Northstar-at-Tahoe, there is also the Highway 267 bypass and the potential for over 20,000 new residential units in Truckee, Lahontan and Martis Valley.
“That’s a big deal and rather daunting to think about,” Lashbrook said, explaining that upwards of 30 major projects lay in the immediate pipeline.
The meeting also featured the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency, the basin’s environmental governing body. Coleen Shade, a senior planner, said the agency would be evaluating some of its requirements with the prospects of easing them in order to better facilitate affordable housing.
The next meeting in the forum’s series will focus on existing affordable housing options in the area and how comparable communities have dealt with the issue.
The meeting will be held at the North Tahoe Community Conference Center from 3 to 5 p.m. on May 24.
The final meeting is scheduled for June 14 and will cover regional affordable housing development strategies.
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