Housing key focus at Tahoe Prosperity Center’s economic summit
Combatting the housing crisis in the Tahoe Basin and new state housing initiatives were key aspects of the Tahoe Prosperity Center’s annual Economic Summit on Oct. 11 — an event that hosted housing experts and developers from across the west coast.
“California is particularly a unique challenge and it also has the most money,” said Andrea Clark, vice president of Pacific Companies, the development firm behind the Dollar Creek Crossing project in Tahoe City. Despite the challenges, she said “for the first time California is killing it when it comes to affordable housing finance. There is more money available than ever.”
Within the state’s final $215 billion budget, $2 billion was set aside to help with homelessness and housing needs.
Clark, who has helped develop various affordable housing projects across the west coast, emphasized the importance of local jurisdictions taking the lead.
“We’re responsible for the individual development, but local jurisdictions can say what their priorities are as a community,” said Clark. “We work in a lot of communities that allows us to do housing development based on zoning code and general plans, but in resort areas it takes more.”
To develop a housing project in the Tahoe Basin, developers have to seek approval not only from a local jurisdiction but the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency as well. Clark suggested that the process be simplified for developers. This could mean an agency like the TRPA lays the groundwork for a project by identifying a site and setting criteria for the developers, then putting it in front of the county for approval.
“So as a developer we would only have to go through one process and not two,” said Clark. “That would be a huge step in the right direction to make things more simple.”
According to a Mountain Housing Council study, eastern Placer County needs 1,560 units to accommodate residents in the very low and extremely low income bracket. Additionally, another 250 moderate income units and 614 upper-middle income units are needed.
“We know we’ve got a need in our community today for about 2,000 units of achievable housing,” said Jennifer Merchant, Placer County deputy county executive officer. Those units are required to accommodate residents that are living in substandard or overcrowded housing or overpaying for housing.
In August the Placer County Board of Supervisors approved a new housing development plan to promote the construction of affordable housing.
“They agreed that our goal for housing is to make sure that 10% of the housing that is being built in Placer County is affordable,” Merchant said.
The county must subsidize the development to make it affordable, which will cost it an estimated $2 million annually. Subsidies must either come from a local source or the state.
“That is something our board is committing to,” Merchant said.
Additionally the board set aside $500,000 to pilot projects, including a first-time home buyer program and financing for the construction of second dwelling units.
“That’s an affordable way that current homeowners can develop housing and help solve the problem without having to do a large development that requires more infrastructure,” said Merchant.
On Aug. 30, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed Assembly Bill 670, created and sponsored by the town of Truckee, which forbids homeowner associations from prohibiting secondary units. The bill will help residents develop more secondary units by eliminating the fees required, Merchant said.
“The fees you have to pay aren’t much different from fees to develop a larger home,” said Merchant. “We do think it’s a sensible way to try to fill some of that gap.”
Early this month, the county completed the purchase of an 11.4-acre property near Tahoe City to develop the Dollar Creek Crossing housing project. The property located at 3205 and 3225 North Lake Blvd. will be developed by Pacific Companies and Related California, two groups that developed the 77-unit Domus affordable housing project in Kings Beach.
“This long term planning by setting aside publicly owned property and identifying opportunities for development gives us the luxury of planning for what we need today, those 2,000 units, and also serving people for the long term,” said Merchant.
In the early stages of planning the developers proposed a total of 206 units, including 192 apartments of various sizes and 14 single-family homes with a community building. They emphasized that it is not a final proposal.
Hannah Jones is a reporter for the Sierra Sun. She can be reached at 530-550-2652 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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