Affordable housing workshops to begin |

Affordable housing workshops to begin

Robert Stern

As more people buy second homes in Lake Tahoe, the supply of housing is dwindling. Housing prices are skyrocketing and many who support the tourism industry, essential to the Tahoe economy, are suffering the consequences.

“When the community prospers no one should be left behind,” said Lew Feldman, Tahoe attorney and mediator of the workshop.

Affordable Housing is a hot-button issue at Lake Tahoe and many officials are looking for solutions.

The fear is Tahoe will become like the posh resorts of Aspen or Vail, Colo. and employees who support the casinos and ski resorts will no longer be able to afford to live at Lake Tahoe.

But simply building affordable housing is more difficult than buying property and erecting a building.

“It is very complex and there is no cookie cutter solution,” said Colleen Shade, Tahoe Regional Planning Agency land use team leader.

Lake Tahoe has some of the strictest environmental regulations in the country. Restrictions such as urban boundaries, stream environment zones and land coverage make finding places to build new projects difficult. There are also limitations on the number of homes and apartments that can be built. The massive amounts of land owned by the U.S. Forest Service and California State Parks also limit available land.

Creating incentives for developers to build affordable housing is something the TRPA is discussing, but environmental considerations are also important to the agency.

“We are here to protect the resources, no doubt, but we are also about balancing the human environment with the natural environment,” Shade said.

One possible solution is to rehabilitate existing hotels and motels that are in poor shape and make them affordable housing, but certain TRPA regulations may need to be changed to make that a viable option for developers.

“The reason the Chamber is doing this is because there are so many agencies working separately,” said Duane Wallace, executive director for the South Lake Tahoe Chamber of Commerce. “We want to act as a catalyst to get the information shared. “

Representatives from the casino and ski industries, realtors, the TRPA and a representative from the Design Workshop, an architectural consulting firm will be presenting.

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