Affordable housing area near hospital eyed |

Affordable housing area near hospital eyed

Jim Grant/Tahoe Daily TribuneWith the city airport in the background, South Lake Tahoe city housing manager Patrick Conway views a land plot map Thursday.

Trying to make a dent in the affordable housing demand, the city of South Lake Tahoe is applying for $3.5 million in funds to build an Alpine-style structure on a parcel at the end of Melba Drive, near Barton Memorial Hospital.

The deadline is Oct. 30 for the federal funds, which are administered by the state.

If the city receives the funding, the plan involves Professional Apartment Managers Co. to build a $4 million housing complex of 26 units on 2.6 acres. It’s estimated for completion in about two years.

PAM Companies has a 1-year option to buy the lot across from the Tahoe Valley Campground, which is now owned by the Fallen Leaf Lake Marina operator, John Rich.

The architect is a familiar one to the South Shore. Bucky Fong developed the Tahoe Pines Apartments and Tahoe Senior Plaza. In one month, his company is also submitting plans to the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency for the disabled housing project on Emerald Bay Road.

Fong and city housing manager Patrick Conway pitched the City Council almost two weeks ago for the OK to apply for the funds to build the so-named Evergreen Apartments, and the panel agreed on the effort.

“We like to build a housing project about every year,” Conway said, while reviewing the lot Thursday.

The city is also using $100,000 in redevelopment funds restricted to housing needs.

The proposed 2- and 3-bedroom units, which may range from $636 to $750 a month, will be designed to help low- to middle-income households — a growing segment of the housing market in Tahoe.

This level constitutes a family of four, with the wage earner over 18 years of age, making less than $34,380 a year, Conway reported.

Many South Shore employers — in particular, casinos and ski areas — have long struggled to find housing for a workforce unable to keep up with rising property values.

Barton Memorial Hospital has joined the fray as one employer looking for expansion of housing that its staffers and prospective hires can afford.

In line with the emerging trend of workers exiting the basin for housing, Barton Human Resources Director Leanne Kankel said half the hospital’s staff now lives in the Carson Valley.

Kankel mentioned how commuting workers may be distracted by having their lives in the valley while they are at work in the basin. The winters may accentuate the issue, as road closures or hazardous conditions could present problems getting to and from work.

“It’s had a tremendous impact on us. We used to recruit here because housing prices were so low. That’s not the case anymore,” she said, calling the issue “a big crisis.”

The complex would be built quite close to the hospital, but the health care workers would have no precedence over others who qualify.

Both the public and private sectors agree that every inroad made to rectify the skyrocketing demand will help.

The city also hopes it may benefit with the passage of Proposition 46, in that overall more funding sources should be available. The ballot measure to be voted on Nov. 5 statewide intends to allow the state to sell $2.1 billion in bonds to fund housing programs.

In its argument in favor, groups like Habitat for Humanity say “housing affordability for working families in California is at historic lows.”

The need expands from the working class to seniors to battered families in need of shelters.

Critics contend that in a year marked by a budget shortfall this is no time for the state to face growing debt with the “equivalent of a high-interest credit card.”

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