Tahoe agencies continue search for workforce housing solutions
INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev. — Heading into the new year, affordable/workforce housing on the North Shore is top of mind for many Tahoe agencies and is set to be a topic of conversation among the Washoe County Board of Commissioners this month.
The commissioners will hold a special meeting on Wednesday, Jan. 25, where Commissioner Alexis Hill, who represents Incline Village, is looking forward to discussing affordable and workforce housing on the North Shore. The meeting details, or agenda, is not yet published, but Hill is hoping to be talking about incentives for developers.
“This is something where we’re at an emergency,” Hill told the Tribune. “It’s a critical issue in Incline Village and Crystal Bay, because our businesses have reduced hours or are no longer able to stay open. We want our people to be able to stay in the basin for their services.”
Washoe County is working with the Tahoe Prosperity Center on the Washoe Tahoe Housing Partnership. The partnership is currently begin funded by Washoe County, the Parasol Tahoe Community Foundation, and the Offerdahl Foundation.
“The current Washoe Tahoe Housing Partnership is leading a collaborative effort to find housing opportunities in Incline Village and Crystal Bay,” said Tahoe Prosperity Center CEO Heidi Hill Drum.
Some ideas being considered include the Lease to Locals program that has been successful in both Truckee and Placer County, improving options for accessory dwelling units, redeveloping old and abandoned properties, and encouraging incentives.
Incentives being considered include additional coverage and height and reduced parking requirements if developments are located in town centers.
The next steps within the partnership is working with local housing consultants on a Housing Roadmap, which will have specific goals and strategies for the Incline Village and Crystal Bay communities.
“This includes strengthening community understanding of the issue around workforce housing, ensuring there is capacity to facilitate this work and working with local employers in the region to address inter solutions, such as transit for employees who live out of the area,” said Drum.
For some, there is a stigma around the phrase “affordable housing,” which Drum and Commissioner Hill hope to eradicate through community outreach.
“I think it’s really important to get the community to embrace what workforce housing means, why it’s important for your community that works in your community to live in your community, and to understand the policies the board has to enact to get behind those policies,” said Hill.
The crisis has elevated closer to home in Incline Village area, as General Improvement District Communication Coordinator Kari Ferguson announced recently at an Incline Village Crystal Bay Community Forum that she was no longer able to live in the district.
While affordable housing isn’t in the purview of IVGID, Ferguson, like others, is hoping that a solution can be found so that she and other employees can continue to live where they work.
“I understand. I lived there for 18 years,” said Ferguson. “So I totally get it. It’s a different world right now. Some employees have to work remotely. It is what it is. I come in and I do the commute. I still love the community and want to work there and choose to work there even though I can’t live there right now.”
Local business owners and developers are currently looking for solutions to the affordable housing crisis through working together in a somewhat tenuous process.
Currently, the developer of the newest Waldorf Astoria with EKN Developments Ebbie Nakhjavani is incorporating workforce housing into the design of his newest project, but doesn’t believe it is enough.
“At the end of the day, it doesn’t solve the entire region’s problem,” said Nakhjavani. “So our goal is to actually get together with local people. We’ve actually talked about how do we come up with a better solution for everybody? So we’re creating a coalition.”
Nakhjavani is working with local commercial owners in the area to help figure out what the next steps are in the process.
“The good news is everybody is putting a foot forward to solve that,” said Nakhjavani. “So I know we can come up with a solution, but it’s just going to take some time and a lot of support.”
Nakhjavani said one of the reasons the process is hard is due to the many agencies developers must work with many agencies around the basin in order to get approval for projects. He believes if the process could be streamlined somehow, it would be easier to incentivize development of affordable or workforce housing.
The Tahoe Regional Planning Agency is also looking into ways they can aid with the affordable housing crisis on the North Shore.
“They’re looking at the land use policies in the basin to try and modernize them so that they’re competitive in this luxury market that we’re in,” said TRPA Public Information Officer Jeff Cowen.
One thing that has changed recently is policy surrounding accessory dwelling units in California, and maybe, eventually in Nevada.
“Before it was restricted,” said Cowen. “You had to have a parcel of over an acre in size … tens of thousands of parcels in the basin are now allowed to have ADUs.”
The change is due to policy change on the California side in Tahoe in how many acres are required to have an ADU. Through changes like these, the TRPA is hoping to incentivize more affordable living in the basin.
“We’re looking at land coverage now as far as larger projects like multi-family projects,” Cowen said.
Currently, apartment buildings and other developments are limited to anywhere between 5%-30% of the coverage of the partial size of a property which can be developed.
“A lot of existing multi-family units and potential future multi-family units can’t work with that,” said Cowen. “They need to have higher densities in order to be feasible.”
TRPA’s Living Tahoe Working Group is largely looking at coverage this year, and will provide guidance on changing development standards for multi-family development properties.
“TRPA cannot fix housing on our own because we don’t have a great funding source and we don’t have local building permit influence,” said Cowen. “What we can do is support housing programs at the local jurisdiction and housing projects that come forward and encouraging small scale projects that come through like Sugar Pine Village (in South Lake Tahoe).”
To learn more about the Washoe Tahoe Housing Partnership, visit tahoeprosperity.org/housing-tahoe/wthp.
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