Tahoe Chamber Corner: Taking a hard look at affordable housing issues (opinion)
From time to time, Tahoe Chamber undertakes a study mission to explore and learn “best practices” from other communities wrestling with challenges similar to the ones we face here at home. This time our focus was on housing.
On June 20-22, we led a delegation of 15 Tahoe-Truckee community leaders to Vail, Breckenridge and Keystone, Colorado, destinations carefully selected for study. Each is a mountain community with at least one major resort, a significant percentage of second homes and short-term rentals, and an inadequate inventory of affordable housing for its workforce and residents.
Throughout our visit, we heard presentations from local housing officials, engaged in interactive discussions, and toured a number of innovative developments, some for rent and some for sale. The proactive commitment of these leaders to the people who work in their communities and want to live there was both pragmatic and inspirational.
Our goal is to infuse this inspiration and commitments in our region.
In terms of next steps, we’re conducting a close review of the housing needs assessments, strategic plans, and the broad range of solutions we learned about. We can clearly learn from how these Colorado communities quantified their challenges and proposed solutions by looking at these plans.
For instance, the Vail Housing Strategic Plan says: “Our mission is to provide and retain high quality, affordable, and diverse housing opportunities for Vail residents to support a sustainable year round economy and build a vibrant, inclusive and resilient community.”
This plan takes a proactive approach to address Vail’s housing needs. It identifies a vision of housing for year-round residents of the community, a mission for maintaining and sustaining community and a single policy statement that acknowledges homes for residents as critical infrastructure, just like roads, police and fire, and other municipal services, thereby reinforcing the importance of affordable housing to the long-term success of Vail.
Likewise, the Eagle River Valley Housing Needs and Solutions 2018 plan says, “Ownership housing in proximity to work has many tangible and intangible benefits associated with creating a sense of community, stability for school children and employers, year round contributions to the economy, decreased commute times, and increased volunteerism.”
Tools in Eagle County, home to Vail, and Summit County, home to Breckenridge and Keystone, all included local government leadership in providing financing, creating public-private housing partnerships, and working directly with employers to help address the housing needs of their workforce.
Yes, we have particular challenges in our region, not the least of which is the relative lack of land available for the construction of deed-restricted affordable housing. But we appreciated the “can do” spirit exhibited by our Colorado contemporaries, expressed as “no problem is insurmountable.”
Our group of Trek participants will convene again with the goal of broadening the forums for dialogue, data gathering to get the hard facts about our community housing needs, and taking action steps here at home.
We were inspired to see first hand the long-term commitment to community housing and sustainability in the communities we visited in Colorado. It’s essential we do the same.
Steve Teshara serves as CEO of the Lake Tahoe South Shore Chamber of Commerce (Tahoe Chamber).