Affordable, as long as agencies get a cut |

Affordable, as long as agencies get a cut

Affordable housing is great in concept. Just ask the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency, which has been pushing strongly to hold local governments to an affordable housing standards.

But when Douglas County takes a whopping $500,000 off the top and the TRPA takes another $200,000, affordable hardly becomes affordable.

That’s how much developers of the Lake Vista Apartment project on Kingsbury Grade will pay in fees and permits before ground is broken. For 64 additional units on a 4.3 acre parcel, almost $700,000 in permits and fees seems outrageous. More than 8 percent of the total cost of the $8.2 million project will go to government before a bulldozer touches the land.

What makes the Douglas County fees particularly galling are the fact that while this project is a new development, it doesn’t add more people. The affordable housing project will house the same residents currently living in the soon-to-be razed Lake Park apartments on Kahle Drive. As such, there is no additional burden on the county’s schools or parks.

In principle, development fees are an excellent way for jurisdictions to recoup infrastructure cost associated with new housing projects. It helps defray the costs of road construction, new schools and other amenities that counties must provide.

But when there is no change in the number of people, nor a need to provide roads or other infrastructure, Douglas County has little excuse to justify its ridiculous fees.

The TRPA, on the other hand, gets a nice chunk of change despite the fact the Lake Vista developer has done everything the TRPA has asked. The developer not only heeds the affordable housing call, a real soap box for the agency lately, but the developer, Mountain Ventures, will restore a stream zone where the Lake Park apartments currently stand.

Affordable housing can hardly be deemed a serious objective of the TRPA if the agency finds it necessary to take its fees out, even if the project has environmental and societal benefits.

As for Douglas County, how nice to get such a windfall and still look like an affordable housing player. Talk about more bang for the buck.

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