California bills could increase affordable housing, streamline development at Tahoe

Miranda Jacobson

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. — The housing crisis in Lake Tahoe communities may see some relief following new bills passed by Gov. Gavin Newsom last week that would allow more duplexes in areas that were once proposed for single family homes. Additionally, the bills will allow for streamlined development of housing, which would make it dramatically faster to build.

The decision now comes to the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency to determine how this new legislation fits into the building policies for the California communities of the basin.

“We know that updating some of Tahoe’s density standards can really help with workforce and ‘missing middle’ housing as well as reducing greenhouse gas emissions,” said TRPA Public Information Officer Jeff Cowen.

The two bills passed that can impact Tahoe’s housing crisis include Senate Bill 9, which allows four to six unit housing projects to be built where it normally would be a single-unit family lot and SB 10, that would streamline construction by letting cities pass ordinances for up to 10 units on one parcel.

Tahoe Prosperity Center CEO Heidi Hill Drum said that she’s been an advocate of town center development since the Regional Plan Update was approved in 2018, which was originally encouraging town center development.

The home above is in Colorado, and is built on what normally is a single unit parcel, but is actually two separate homes donated on US Forest Service land. The concept is currently in discussion of being adopted in California communities of Lake Tahoe.

“I’m not sure how automatic it will be in the basin because of the TRPA,” said Drum. “But I wish it was. I think that it’s a step in the right direction. Housing is a crisis. Clearly, any attempts to streamline development for housing and increase density in town centers is a good thing for the environment and the community. If we are able to build these duplexes within the city regions, that would leave for less need to build in areas that haven’t been developed yet.”

Drum has been working to solve the housing crisis in Tahoe for quite some time, and if the TRPA can figure out how these bills fit in the basin, it could mean increased room for locals and middle income family housing.

“I would hope we focus our future residential development allocations on the type of housing that we need the most, which is affordable to the “missing middle” range of homes,” said Drum. “We clearly do not need more luxury vacation rental condo developments, which would be multifamily in some cases.”

The “missing middle” refers to the working and middle class residents that have begun to get pushed out of basin communities as homeowners convert their properties to short-term rentals, and the amount of second homes and Bay Area transplants that have driven up the price of the market.

“TRPA and our local government jurisdictions should do everything in their power to encourage housing allocations to be dedicated to the type of housing our community needs the most,” said Drum.

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

Readers around the Lake Tahoe Basin and beyond make the Tahoe Tribune's work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Your donation will help us continue to cover COVID-19 and our other vital local news.