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Housing gains called satisfactory

Patrick McCartney

The Tahoe Regional Planning Agency has declared that all of the Tahoe Basin’s local governments have made satisfactory progress toward achieving affordable housing goals.

With the declaration, a threatened moratorium on new subdivisions has been dropped.

The agency’s governing board made the annual finding last week, despite the fact no new low-cost housing was built this year, and the board overturned its only approval of an affordable project in Incline Village.

Instead, the agency counted as progress decisions by several jurisdictions to create redevelopment agencies, efforts to identify areas in need of low-cost housing, and the funding of housing rehabilitation programs.

Kay Bennett, a Carson City supervisor, was the only board member to register a protest before the board voted 13-1 that each local government had “demonstrated a commitment to assume its fair share of responsibility to provide low- and very low-income housing.”

“While I feel some progress has been made, I’m not convinced it’s real progress or a real commitment by the communities to affordable housing,” Bennett said.

The agency’s goal to encourage the basin’s five counties and the city of South Lake Tahoe to provide low-cost housing has encountered resistance in recent years. Board member Steve Wynn, who was appointed to a third one-year term last week, said the agency was at risk of losing its focus on environmental goals by concentrating on such social goals as low-cost housing.

The League to Save Lake Tahoe sued the agency over a community plan in Douglas County that proposed placing new affordable housing outside the plan area.

“We remain concerned that the TRPA plan does not take into account further needs for affordable housing,” said Rochelle Nason, the league’s executive director. “That becomes an environmental issue, because we don’t want to see pressure for housing in undeveloped areas that should be provided within the urban boundaries.”

As part of the settlement of the suit, the TRPA has proposed moratoriums on new subdivisions if the basin’s jurisdictions did not shoulder their fair share of the basin’s low-income housing needs.

The latest deadline is Jan. 1, but the recent action allows each local government to continue approving subdivisions.

In her remarks, Bennett said that the shortage of low-cost housing in the basin will continue to create problems with transit, access and difficulty of industries to recruit service employees.

“It’s an issue that’s not going to go away,” Bennett said. “We see a continuing shift of affordable housing outside the basin. That will come and bite us in the years to come.”

This year, the agency approved one affordable housing component at a residential project in Incline Village, but rescinded its request for low-cost units after neighbors complained. The last new affordable housing project in the basin was the 28-unit Tahoe Pines Apartments in South Lake Tahoe, built in 1994. But the city is providing other low-cost units as well, said Patrick Conway, the city’s housing coordinator.

“One thing that is important to understand is that new housing is not the only way to provide affordable housing,” Conway said.

This year, the city will break ground on a 45-unit senior housing project, will rehabilitate 70 apartment units and set them aside for low-income residents, and continue to fund a first-time home buyers’ program.

The TRPA also documented progress in other areas of the basin:

— El Dorado County: the adoption of a new general plan, $2.2 million in loans, rehabilitation.

— Placer County: Established a redevelopment agency, adopted policy to require major developers to provide employee housing.

— Douglas County: Adopted development code that grants additional density in exchange for affordable housing, created a redevelopment agency with aim of including low-cost housing.

— Washoe County: Completed countywide housing plan to address needs, hosted seminar in Incline Village to attract developers.

— Carson City: Has no housing in the basin, but has developed affordable housing in Carson Valley.


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