City taking an active role in seeking affordable housing solutions (Opinion)
Access to affordable housing is a challenge that plagues communities throughout the state and much of the nation.
The South Lake Tahoe City Council has made affordable housing a top strategic priority and is taking an all-hands-on-deck approach to deploying a broad array of strategies to address the problem. Over the past year, the city has developed, and is aggressively executing, a focused plan to address the housing challenges facing the community.
Consistent with the council’s adopted 5-year strategic plan, significant efforts are underway to construct new income-qualified affordable housing and to incentivize the use of existing housing stock for long-term rentals, in addition to reducing regulatory barriers of accessory dwelling units and privately financed market-rate housing.
Over the past year, the city has allocated approximately $2.4 million toward the development of new affordable housing units. Through public-private partnerships, these funds are being used to directly leverage approximately $50 million from state and federal funding sources for the creation of Sugar Pine Village, a 248-unit affordable housing development.
This funding includes approximately $4 million that would be allocated for local solar and public pedestrian infrastructure improvements adjacent to the project. These grant applications were made possible by leveraging the funds committed by the City Council toward the project.
While raising financial capital for a new housing development takes time, the commitment of the city has already begun to pay off, as evidenced by the Dec. 2 announcement of a $3,195,900 grant award to fund infrastructure associated with the Sugar Pine Village Project.
Additional efforts underway include launching a grant program to incentivize property owners to rent vacant or under-utilized homes to city residents. The new program, Lease to Locals, is a public-private partnership, which offers one-time cash payment to property owners who rent qualifying properties at a price that is affordable to moderate-income households. This program embodies the city’s aggressive and creative approach to the affordable housing crisis.
Funding has also been procured to initiate a moderate-income homebuyer assistance program and a feasibility study to explore the establishment of a permanent local funding source to fund future affordable housing initiatives.
With the understanding that housing is a need across the income spectrum, the city has streamlined the approval process associated with many types of residential development. More than 120 privately developed housing units have been approved through the planning process and are expected to break ground in 2022. The city has also removed barriers and provides assistance to property owners who are interested in developing ADUs on their properties.
Housing quality and resident safety is a top priority for the city. The city’s Department of Development Services maintains a housing issues hotline and a robust inspection program of approximately 2,400 housing units to ensure and improve the health, safety and quality of life of residents. To report issues, contact the hotline at 530-542-7417, where bi-lingual staff will assist callers. The city is also actively updating the state-required housing element to ensure eligibility for all available federal and state transportation, community service, and affordable housing funding sources.
Access to safe and affordable housing is vital to a healthy local economy and addressing the housing challenges faced by the South Lake Tahoe region is a team effort. In this spirit, the city remains committed to furthering its strong tradition of being an active partner with vital community, nonprofit and government entities, as well as private developers and businesses to improve access to safe and affordable housing for everyone in the community.
While no single solution exists to address the challenges with regard to housing, the city is committed to solving the problem through a multi-pronged approach of increasing funding, constructing new affordable and market rate housing units, increasing the use of existing single-family housing stock and improving the quality and accessibility of existing multi-family housing units throughout the city.
For more information on these and other programs, visit http://www.cityofslt.us/Housing.
Joseph Irvin is city manager of South Lake Tahoe
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