Saint Joseph responding to Tahoe housing crisis (Opinion)
Even before COVID-19, the Tahoe Basin was confronting a severe housing crisis. Technology has allowed for increased remote work and COVID-19 has resulted in an influx of remote workers to the basin seeking refuge from more populated urban centers.
There has been unprecedented competition for basin homes resulting in significant price increases, making homes even more unaffordable for much of the local workforce.
It is widely acknowledged that providing a diverse range of housing and support services is critical for the vitality and success of a community. This is especially true for resort communities like Tahoe.
A balanced stock would provide rental and ownership housing that is affordable to the vital workforce supporting the basin’s employers including first responders, teachers, hospitality and retail workers as well as for households that want to make the basin their full-time home and those who want to take advantage of the basin’s seasonal recreational opportunities.
The South Shore Region Housing Needs and Opportunities study, commissioned by the Tahoe Prosperity Center prior to the arrival of COVID-19, concluded that the South Shore alone needed to add over 3,000 units by 2026 to address the deficit, including a mix of below market and market rate rental and ownership units to address the shortfall.
So, What’s Being Done to Address the Shortfall in Tahoe Basin Housing?
The Mountain Housing Council on the North Shore and the Tahoe Prosperity Center on the South Shore have assembled diverse stakeholders in their respective jurisdictions to not just study the housing deficiencies in the basin, but to do something about it.
Following on the South Shore Region Housing Needs and Opportunities study, a housing advisory group, composed of representatives from the regions’ jurisdictions, agencies, non-profits, employers and community stakeholders was assembled to develop the South Shore Region Local Resident Housing Action Plan. The plan presents a set of actions to address the range of local resident housing needs.
What role does Saint Joseph Community Land Trust play?
Saint Joseph Community Land Trust is a nonprofit that was created in 2002 in response to the rising housing costs and negative impacts of these costs to the broad social fabric, well-being, and sustainability of communities around Lake Tahoe and was a member of the housing advisory group. As a community land trust, Saint Joseph provides:
• Dual ownership: Saint Joseph will build or acquire homes that will be sold to income-qualified households subject to a 99-year renewable, inheritable ground lease held by Saint Joseph removing the land from the speculative market.
• Perpetual affordability: resale restrictions in the ground lease preserve affordability for successive generations of homeowners
• Stewardship: homebuyer education, lease administration and supportive programs preserve assets for future generations
• Community participation in leadership: Saint Joseph bylaws call for board representation by its low and moderate-income members and beneficiaries.
In addition to expanding affordable home ownership like the three homes to be built on land provided by the city of South Lake Tahoe on Riverside Ave, Saint Joseph also participates as a partner in low-income rental workforce housing projects like the existing 77 unit Sierra Garden workforce rental project and the Sugar Pine Village project being planned for South Lake Tahoe. With Saint Joseph’s new TAHOE (Tahoe affordable home ownership enabling) program, it will extend beyond adding affordable ownership and rental units to preserving existing homes for the affordable housing stock.
How will the TAHOE program preserve existing homes?
The TAHOE program has three components that seek to preserve existing homes to be added to the affordable housing stock including:
• Providing financial assistance to low/moderate-income employees and full-time residents of the Tahoe Basin that will help them purchase an existing home for their primary residence
• Enabling Saint Joseph to directly purchase homes that are for sale
• Providing financial assistance to existing low/moderate income homeowners that are at risk of losing their homes.
Jean Diaz is executive director of the St. Joseph Community Land Trust.
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