TRPA OKs affordable housing incentives |

TRPA OKs affordable housing incentives

South Shore businesses looking for ways to build employee housing more cheaply got a little help from the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency.

The TRPA Governing Board passed amendments last week to entice lodging owners and other private developers to convert tourist lodging to house low-income families, seasonal workers and other low-wage employees.

In order to do this, the developer would have to deed-restrict the housing, or lease it at a fixed rent that couldn’t be raised.

Planning consultant Gary Midkiff said he has several clients who are interested in buying hotels to remodel into affordable and employee housing. Midkiff said many deals are in the early stages and he wouldn’t comment on specifics.

“There are several employers who are actively looking to provide housing to entry-level employees all the way to middle management. Businesses have been looking for ways to make this feasible for years,” Midkiff said. “These amendments will help do that.”

Coleen Shade, TRPA land-use team leader, said much of the lodging that could be reconstructed for affordable housing was built before minimum land coverage rules were established. TRPA’s land coverage rules limit the amount of a person’s land that can be covered with buildings, driveways and sidewalks. Therefore, in order to construct a new project, like converting lodging to affordable housing, the owner had to eliminate some structures covering the land, which is costly.

Shade said the new conversion amendments will allow owners to convert lodging to low-income housing without having to eliminate coverage somewhere else on their property.

Plus, the amendments will allow the owner to build market-rate, multi-family housing with development rights from the owner’s lodging that was converted to affordable housing. One development right has to be acquired to build one hotel or motel unit. Development rights can be sold or used to build.

“This new language provides quite a bit of flexibility for deed-restricted affordable housing,” Shade said. “Even though we’re allowing people to transfer off existing development rights for multi-use projects, we’re still going to fill a gap in our housing needs.”

Although the League to Save Lake Tahoe didn’t oppose the new housing amendments, League Executive Director Rochelle Nason does not think additional development will help the housing shortage.

“TRPA needs to examine affordable housing as it relates to all the other housing in the basin,” Nason said. “If we have a problem, that problem needs to be addressed. We don’t think the problem is a shortage of units. Trying to build more apartments on undeveloped land is not the solution.”

Nason suggests protecting residential units from being converted to tourist accommodations and rehabilitating affordable units that already exist.

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