County committed to finding affordable housing solutions (Opinion)

Sue Novasel
Guest column

El Dorado County is in the process of updating its Housing Element, which is one of the seven mandatory elements of the General Plan.

Sue Novasel

State law requires that every county in California prepare and adopt an update to their Housing Element and related environmental documents every eight years, with this update covering 2021 to 2029. The county is required to demonstrate that it can accommodate a specific number of housing units for each one of four income categories within the next eight-year time frame – a process known as the Regional Housing Needs Allocation. This process sets a benchmark for each city and county and requires they address their “fair share” of regional housing needs.

The Housing Element update studies the goals, policies, financial resources, and necessary revisions to implement measures that reflect changes in local, state and federal law. It also includes an analysis of the success in meeting past goals and objectives which result in modifications to the current Housing Element to reflect the changing needs of county residents.

What does all this mean for future housing needs in the Tahoe Basin? The new numbers indicate that within the unincorporated area of the county’s in the Tahoe Basin, 359 new housing units are needed to meet the state mandates — 91 “very low-income”; 55 “low-income”; 63 “moderate” and 150 “above moderate” units.

With the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency’s new building allocations set at 30 units per year and maximum density and height requirements that limit the size and scope of new and redevelopment projects, it is easy to see why the state mandates are nearly impossible to meet. Adding to that, home values are skyrocketing in California and have had a huge impact on our local markets, making it even more important to address the obvious lack of affordable housing in our area and search for ways to incentivize affordable housing.

TRPA and El Dorado County are committed to finding solutions to this problem. Currently, TRPA is updating the Accessory Dwelling Unit regulations to bring them into alignment with new state law and to develop standards that allow ADUs to be used as affordable options for permanent residents to help meet the housing needs within the basin.

As a part of the Housing Element requirements, the county is developing an action plan to meet the needs of our community. The county offers a “First Time Home Buyer” program as well as financial assistance with impact fee offsets for affordable housing projects and continues to develop other incentives.

The Tahoe Basin is in obvious need of affordable housing for our locals. Without it, local businesses stand to lose more of their critical workforce or worse, create an increasing dependance on commuter-based workers.

The county is committed to seeking solutions to this problem and by working alongside our local land-use agencies and neighboring jurisdictions, we strive to develop better housing programs and incentives to help our local communities thrive.

Sue Novasel is supervisor of District 5 which covers the Lake Tahoe region of El Dorado County. This column is part of a monthly housing series organized by the Tahoe Prosperity Center. To stay up to date on how you can help support housing efforts on the South Shore, sign up for the center’s newsletter at

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