TOT revenue could fund affordable housing in Placer County | SierraSun.com

TOT revenue could fund affordable housing in Placer County

The lack of affordable housing in the region has Placer County Board of Supervisors looking to make it a higher priority in North Lake Tahoe’s Tourism Master Plan, a move that could mean making Transient Occupancy Tax available to fund housing projects in the future.

“Achievable housing in the basin is a critical infrastructure need, so let’s recognize that in the Tourism Master Plan,” said Supervisor Kirk Uhler.

However some voiced concerns of using TOT revenue as a funding source for affordable housing projects.

“I think you need to shoot a lot higher,” Alex Mourelatos, who previously served on the North Lake Tahoe Resort Association, told the board of supervisors at a July 23 meeting. Given the number of additional units needed in the area, he said “TOT is not even close” to the amount of funding needed and “is the wrong source of public funds to serve that gap.”

Mourelatos suggested real estate taxes should be considered to fund affordable housing projects instead.

“We, too, agree that achievable housing as a term is an important one,” said John Falk of the Tahoe Sierra Board of Realtors. Falk said the board has looked at a real estate transfer tax and they oppose it. “It targets only one segment of the community to bear the cost and burden for a problem that is community wide,” he said.

Falk noted, however, that TOT funding should not be the only source of funding for housing projects as it is already used for other public services.

‘GAPS IN SERVICES’

Erin Holland of the North Tahoe Fire Protection District said the demand for their emergency services greatly increases as visitors come to Lake Tahoe. When the district applied for TOT funding for medical rescue equipment they were denied, she said.

While housing is an important issue, Holland said there are gaps in other community services that need to be addressed in the Tourism Master Plan.

“I understand the tendency to think that because it’s in the Tourism Master Plan that we’re going to rely on TOT,” said Uhler. “I don’t think that’s the intent.”

In 1996, voters approved a TOT increase from 8 to 10 percent in North Lake Tahoe. When the master plan was updated in 2004 it identified the need for affordable housing. In 2015, affordable housing was removed from the plan in favor of high-priority projects like bike trails and parks.

“The tourism master plan has gone through very robust public involvement over the three previous additions,” said Supervisor Cindy Gustafson. “I think to keep the integrity of the Master Plan we need robust public input.” The county plans to hold additional community workshops before amending the Master Plan. According to a staff report, an Affordable Housing Financing and Investment Strategy that identifies even more potential funding sources will be presented to the board next month.

According to Emily Setzer, senior management analyst for Placer County the housing market in North Lake Tahoe has gotten increasingly more expensive and restricted since 2015. In the North Lake Tahoe region there are currently 474 below market rate housing units.

“To get unto one of those units residents are often having to wait periods that may exceed three years,” said Setzer.

‘MISMATCH IN STOCK AND NEED’

Currently the median home price for North Tahoe Truckee region was around $725,000 with average home price of $1.2 million.

“There’s a mismatch between the housing stock and the housing need in this region,” said Setzer, stating the housing available in the region consists mostly of larger expensive single-family homes. According to a county study nearly two-thirds of all households only contain one or two people.

County data shows there’s been a 23% decrease in overall lakeside population since 2010 and a 5% decrease in workers aged 30 or younger between 2002 and 2015. Data also shows that 59% of the workforce commutes from outside the area.

“This impacts the hours of operation for businesses. A lot of businesses are having to reduce their hours even during peak periods because they’re having issues keeping staff,” said Setzer.

Surveys collected from employers in the region between 2015 and 2019 showed that 82% of respondents thought the lack of affordable housing negatively impacts their employee recruitment and retention.

More than 50% of respondents in 2018 voter poll identified the lack of affordable housing as a critical community issue.

Hannah Jones is a reporter for the Sierra Sun. She can be reached at hjones@sierrasun.com or 530-550-2652.