Wait lists persist despite new Truckee apartments

Andrew Cristancho
Sierra Sun
Seth Lightcap/Sierra SunHenness Flats is a new 92-unit community offering income-restricted two- and three-bedroom apartments.

A six-month-old affordable housing complex continues to have vacancies, although the waiting lists at other such apartments hovers between six months to one year.

The 92-unit Henness Flats Apartments became available for rent to lower-wage earners in October 2007, said Henness Manager Duane Jakob.

But two other workforce housing complexes Jakob manages, Truckee Pines and Truckee Donner Senior Apartments, have waiting lists of six months to one year, he said. Since Henness Flats became available, he said, the waiting list at Truckee Pines has gone down a little. And potential residents may apply to both apartments simultaneously, but separately.

The senior apartments are a special case because, unlike the other two, the rent is actually subsidized by the government, Jakob said.

The need for affordable housing for Truckee’s very low-, low- and moderate-income wage earners was established by the Town of Truckee’s housing element, which established objectives for a planning period that started in January 2001 and ends in June next year, according to the town’s 2007 annual report.

Just 33 percent of that housing need has been met so far, according to the report, with 323 units built, under construction or approved. The report states 654 units remain to be planned, approved or built.

The objective, most likely will not be met by June 2009, said Town Planner Duane Hall. But, he said, compared with eight years ago, there are many more affordable housing units available or becoming available.

“There is still plenty to build,” said Tom Ballou, housing services director for the Workforce Housing Association of Truckee Tahoe. “[Now] we have to look at income levels. We need to be a lot more particular. In the beginning, the need was so broad you could fill anything you built. Now you have to be far more concerned with who your renter or buyer is.”

Ballou and staff in the Town of Truckee Planning Department say the very-low income earners are not expressing as much need now as the low to moderate wage earners ” like teachers, police officers and firefighters. People in the very-low income category earn up to 50 percent of Nevada County’s median income of $64,700, which at the high end equals $2,695 per month.

Although some stigma still surrounds affordable housing, Jakob said the Henness Flats units are modern and of quality construction.

The freshly constructed units have two and three bedroom with fresh paint and new carpeting. Occupancy limits are five people for the two-bedroom units and seven for the three-bedroom units, Jakob said.

An on-site assistant manger lives and works at the apartments and is on the premises consistently to monitor the apartments.

“The good thing is everyone has something in common,” Jakob said explaining each resident faces the economic challenges of living in an expensive resort community while earning lower wages. That commonality should foster a sense of community between residents, he said.

David Griffith, Truckee’s redevelopment and housing coordinator said he is confident that Jakob’s professional management firm Cambridge Real Estate Services will keep the complex in top condition. The town’s developers considered design features to make sure the complex was well-lit and was open and safe. The complex will be subject to the town’s litter and noise ordinances and the management firm’s principals have met with Truckee town police, and patrols will be deployed regularly ” like any other apartment complex, he said.

On a quiet spring day, Henness Flats resident Betty Walsh, a long-time Tahoe-Truckee local who once worked for Squaw Valley Ski Corp. during the 1960 Olympic games, raked the exposed dirt left from a quickly receding snow pack.

She told the manager this sort maintenance needs to be done all over the complex, as she pointed her finger around the premises.

Jakob assured Walsh the job is on the schedule of routine maintenance. Later, he confided that it made him proud to see residents like Walsh take pride in the area.

“She’s not required to do that,” he said.

When employers hear about the apartments he hopes they use it as a recruitment tool for future employees, Jakob said.

“We invite anyone in the community to take a look ” especially employers,” he said.

A Brazilian woman who now works as Jakob’s assistant is using the apartments as an opportunity.

“This is a way to start,” Elaine Damoz, a single mother of three and recent divorcee, said while sorting through bills in the main office of the complex. “It’s the affordable way to live in Truckee.”

She said the units are clean, modern, conveniently located next to three highways between Reno, Truckee, the Lake and Sacramento. She explained that the school district’s buses and public transit stop at the complex.

Three income limit tiers exist for qualification to rent an apartment at Henness Flats, Jakob said ” 35, 50 and 60 percent of Nevada County’s median income. For a family of four, 60 percent of the median income is $39,060.

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