Douglas County teaming with Tahoe Prosperity Center, other agencies, to find housing solutions (Opinion)
In 2017, Douglas County participated with the Tahoe Prosperity Center in South Shore business walks to learn what issues concern our businesses the most.
The number one issue impacting business success was a lack of employees due to the high cost of housing in the region. High employee turnover costs small businesses in lost revenue. Housing for workers has become economic development 101.
Subsequently, the TPC took the lead to pull together all the right stakeholders to create the Housing Partnership which includes Douglas County and a multitude of partners to complete a Housing Needs Assessment and Action for the South Shore.
On Dec. 19, the TPC updated the Douglas County Board of Commissioners with a presentation about the results of the housing assessment and work underway to develop an action plan.
Sufficient housing is a local, regional and national need. It is particularly challenging in resort communities. Luckily the consultant team hired to lead the work has experience working specifically in mountain resort communities such as Mammoth, Big Sky, Breckenridge, Vail and Bozeman.
The goal for housing in our region is across the spectrum – for seasonal workers who move here for a winter, as well as young professionals who are just starting their families, and seniors who are currently the largest growing segment of our population.
Details of the housing assessment are available on the TPC website. 3,290 homes are needed by 2026 to keep up with and meet the housing demands – for our current and future workforce needs. About 60% of the units needed (1,880) are at levels below prevailing market prices. Current rental vacancy rates are extremely low (less than 2%). 75% of current homes in the area are more than 40 years old and many have not been properly maintained.
The real problem is the lack of homes being built that are affordable for residents.
What’s affordable? Housing is considered affordable when no more than 30% of a household’s gross income is used for rent or mortgage plus utilities. Unfortunately, those who can afford homes in Tahoe, tend to be those who can afford to purchase a second home.
Employers were asked about problems finding/retaining employees and 49% stated they could not find or lacked suitable housing, followed by 41% who stated the cost of living here is too high.
Interestingly, 39% found a job outside of the South Shore area, part of why the South Shore has lost the family age demographic in the region. Our businesses need employees who live locally.
Now that we have a clear understanding of the need we also have the opportunity to develop an action plan to implement solutions. Partner entities including Douglas County, City of South Lake Tahoe, El Dorado County, El Dorado Community Foundation, California Tahoe Conservancy, Lake Tahoe Community College, the South Tahoe Alliance of Resort, Barton Health, Tahoe Chamber, Tahoe Regional Planning Agency, Tahoe Transportation District, US Bank and many more will meet for a third strategy session this month with a final action plan expected this spring.
On Tuesday, Jan. 7 the public has another opportunity to learn about the components of the draft South Shore Regional Housing Action Plan.
Topics include funding, partnership, programs, regulations, presentation, incentives and how to increase local resident housing. Please mark your calendar and attend one of two open houses: at 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 7, at South Lake Tahoe City Hall, 1901 Lisa Maloof Way.
Just like other resort communities it will take commitment, partnership and creativity to move the housing needle on our need.
The challenge in the South Shore is the added complexity of multiple counties, a city and two states. Douglas County looks forward to engaging with the partners to develop solutions for implementation.
More information can be found at https://tahoeprosperity.org/housing-study/
Patrick Cates is the Douglas County Manager.