My Turn: A cohesive community needs a mix of housing
The need for affordable housing tops the “want lists” of many organizations in the North Lake Tahoe/Truckee area. However, the fulfillment of that need seems to be very elusive as “affordable” does not appear to be entirely compatible with economic practicality and the visions of the existing communities.
My personal belief is that although the basic purpose of affordable housing is to provide minimal safe shelter for those less fortunate, it must also provide an environment that encourages and fosters the development of a cohesive community structure. If affordable housing leads to the formation ” or perpetuation ” of slums and ghettos, then the project is a failure.
The Placer County Draft Employee Housing Ordinance goes to some length to define the financial criteria for providing “adequate housing for the workforce.” However, to the best of my knowledge, it does not define “adequate” housing, except through the implied legal requirements to meet building and zoning codes. This sort of policy in the past has led to disastrous and expensive federal affordable housing projects in which the sheltering criterion was provided, but the quality of life and the social interactions of the occupants were ignored by the planners and bureaucrats.
Consequently, I believe it is extremely important to accommodate the lifestyle and quality of life traditions into the design of the projects to the extent feasible.
I admit I am not sure how this is can be accomplished within the various financial restraints that are present. In addition, I am not sure just what “amenities” are needed to convert a “shelter-from-the-elements-only” project into one that really contributes to the social, environmental and economic vitality of a community. However, I do know this: In spite of some 13 years of eye-opening experience as a landlord/owner of affordable residential rentals in Tahoe Vista, and with a background as a retired octogenarian who has had a comfortable (if not excessive) income, lived (and owned) a succession of free-standing residences, enjoyed sustained professional employment, etc., etc. I know I am not qualified to suggest what is acceptable and affordable housing for a) the professional who has a household income in the median range, i.e. about $65,000 per year, b) the skilled or semi-skilled worker with an income of two-thirds the median, c) the non-skilled worker whose income is one-third to one half the median, d) the non-immigrant worker who is amassing a “nest egg” so that he/she can return with their wealth to their country of origin, or e) the seasonal migrant worker.
These are the people who have visions of the community and lifestyle they seek for themselves and their families and for which “affordable housing” is the first and vital step for them to take to realize their future.
Consequently, to the developer who is sincere in contributing to the community’s cohesiveness, I suggest that he/she consult with representatives of the various groups that will ultimately occupy the housing regarding their needs and desires, as opposed to querying bureaucrats and members of the community (such as myself) who can only speculate as to the needs of others.
The future of the North Lake Tahoe/Truckee area as a place to live, work and recreate for all segments of the community depends, in a large part, to how well we solve the problems of providing affordable housing, developing socially balanced communities and diversifying our economy.
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