TRPA explores deed-restriction in order to promote affordable housing

Miranda Jacobson / Tahoe Daily Tribune

TAHOE CITY, Calif. — The Tahoe Regional Planning Agency is looking at housing needs in Lake Tahoe communities and have identified a strong need for affordable and workforce housing in the basin. 

TRPA Housing Program Manager Karen Fink presented before the Incline Village Crystal Bay Citizens Advisory Board earlier this year in July explaining the main goals that have been identified through the Tahoe Regional Plan. 

“TRPA’s regional plan has three specific housing goals identified,” said Fink, “and two of them are related to providing sufficient, affordable, moderate-income housing. The third is… TRPA should update our policies and ordinances if necessary to achieve state, local, and regional housing goals.” 

In order to comply with the Regional Plan and work with local communities, the Tahoe Living Working Group was created, which brings together local residents and agencies to find ways to help the region meet housing goals. 

“The Tahoe Prosperity Center and Placer County have conducted regional housing needs assessments that have identified how much affordable, moderate, workforce housing is needed by 2026 to meet local needs,” said Fink.

Currently, South Tahoe and Placer County need about 1,800 homes over the next three to five years, and Washoe County in Tahoe needs about 785. These homes could be newly built, or they could be existing properties that need to be renovated to meet current environmental and housing regulations.

In California, the passage of Senate Bills 9 and 10 moved to allow four to six unit housing projects to be built where it normally would be a single-unit family lot, along with the potential to streamline construction by letting cities pass ordinances for up to 10 units on one parcel. 

Phase 1 of TPRA’s Tahoe Living and Housing Community Revitalization Initiative is now complete, with an update from Fink released this week on the work that has been done leading into Phase 2. 

Some of the main goals and accomplishments of Phase 1 were to update residential densities to allow Accessory Dwelling Units on parcels of less than one acre, as well as increasing densities for projects redeveloping from tourist to residential. 

“Now in Phase 2, we are continuing to look at ways to facilitate different workforce housing types, with a focus on updating development standards such as coverage, height, and density to make these housing types more financially feasible,” wrote Fink. 

Work to be done includes coverage, density, and height development right standards, which TRPA staff anticipates to bring a draft to the Tahoe Living Working Group in early 2023. Additionally, work into developmental rights, moveable tiny homes, and achievable definition updates will be on the agenda for Phase 2 of the initiative. 

Deed restriction is another big focus of this phase, specifically in Incline Village. 

Currently, Placer County has the Workforce Housing Preservation Program, which pays homeowners up to 16% of purchase towards a down payment in exchange for deed restricting the home purchased so it can only be occupied by local workers. The plan was approved by the Placer County Board of Supervisors in February of 2021.

TRPA Public Information Officer Jeff Cowen explained that although TRPA is just the facilitator of funds and could not create the same program, staff can work towards changing development rules and policies to protect existing affordable housing and promote new options and a more diverse range of housing that is deed restricted.

“It’s focusing on deed restriction, because there is affordable housing in the basin right now, but none of it is protected,” said Cowen. “Any affordable housing in the basin that’s not deed restricted is at risk. That’s where the biggest problems that we’re seeing right now are. We were already short on affordable housing and now even more is disappearing. So that’s why the focus that you’re going to hear from TRPA and most of the jurisdictions is deed restriction.” 

There are multiple affordable housing projects that are in the works that will provide affordable housing to workers in the basin, including Dollar Creek Crossing in Tahoe City and units are also being built in South Lake Tahoe and Truckee that will be dedicated to affordable housing. 

All of the homes will be deed restricted and offered only to those who work in the Lake Tahoe Basin. 

“I’m always just so blown away and impressed with the work that’s going on in Eastern Placer County around housing,” said Cowen. “They have so many programs that are putting cash on the ground.” 

The TRPA will continue to work towards Phase 2 of the initiative in order to bring a new amendment package forward to the Board and work towards an “achievable” definition of deed restricted housing to ultimately protect workforce housing in the basin. 

To learn more about the Housing and Community Revitalization Working Group, visit

Miranda Jacobson is a reporter for the Tahoe Daily Tribune, a sister publication of the Sun. She can be reached at

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