Truckee development: Resident building permits plummet 94 percent past four years | SierraSun.com

Truckee development: Resident building permits plummet 94 percent past four years

Greyson Howard
Sierra Sun
Greyson Howard/Sierra SunA sign in the Gray's Crossing development marks available lots Thursday morning. Not many houses are being built there and#8212; or anywhere in Truckee, for that matter and#8212; as building has slowed significantly over the last few years.
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TRUCKEE and#8212; Only a few years back, houses were springing out of the ground by the hundreds as the regional real estate market blossomed to towering heights.

When the bubble burst, the Town of Truckee found its building staff with a fraction of past years’ work, and faced its first-ever round of layoffs. Building permits issued for residential projects plummeted from 326 in 2006 to 18 in 2009, according to the 2009 Community Development Annual Report, a 94 percent decrease.

and#8220;Development is slow, slow, slow,and#8221; said John McLaughlin, community development director. and#8220;We’ve seen a continued dramatic decrease in housing construction and#8212; we saw it again in 2009 and we’re seeing it this spring and#8212; it doesn’t look like 2010 is really any different.and#8221;

After dropping to 56 residential permits in 2008, much of the belt tightening was already done, McLaughlin said.

and#8220;We’ve already decreased our staff down to minimal levels,and#8221; he said. and#8220;We’re down to just three building department staff, when a few years ago we had 14.and#8221;

According to the report, as of Jan. 1, 2010, Truckee has 12,297 residential units, which the Department of Finance estimates houses a population of 16,241, meaning the town’s growth rate was 0.8 percent from the previous year of 12,133 housing units.

With an expected maximum population for the town of 28,263 when all zoned lots are built, that puts the town at 62 percent of residential buildout, according to the report, filling 19,901 residential units.

The town adopted the 2025 General Plan while things were still booming, expecting to be near that buildout number by 2025 and#8212; but that number isn’t coming up nearly as quickly, McLaughlin said.

and#8220;At this rate, instead of 15 or 20 years to buildout, it will be 100 years, but my guess as the market adjusts, it will be shorter than that,and#8221; he said.

Population rate vs. housing stock has held relatively steady despite the downturn, McLaughlin said, with about 47 percent living in Truckee full time and#8212; the remaining 53 percent compose either second homes or vacant buildings.

The drastic downturn in residential building does has a silver lining, McLaughlin said, as it gives planners time to look at the big picture and have plans in place for when development picks up again.

That means updating development codes and plans for downtown and strategically picking up open space while property values are low, he said.

and#8220;The main thing is Truckee is experiencing the same sort of slow down the rest of the country is, and we’re hopeful for the future, but definitely recognizing the change in course and planning accordingly,and#8221; McLaughlin said.

The town’s strategy to provide affordable housing has been a moving target as the economy has shifted, McLaughlin said.

As development boomed, the town leaned on developers and#8212; requiring them to build inclusionary or workforce housing as part of their projects, he said.

But without some projects and#8212; such as Gray’s Crossing and#8212; moving forward, and market-rate homes dipping closer to affordable levels, ideas like the first-time homebuyer’s down payment assistance program are gaining favor as a way to help people afford Truckee homes, McLaughlin said.

That program, launched earlier this year, is currently taking successful applicants through the home-buying process and#8212; its success will be evaluated by staff later this year, when town council will decide if the town should do it again.

No new affordable housing units were built in 2009, according to the Community Development Annual Report, and the town has only met 12.4 percent of its affordable housing goals to date, with 203 deed-restricted units built since 2001.