TRPA postpones affordable housing talks
An advisory group to the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency agreed Wednesday to postpone for one month talks about whether governments inside the Lake Tahoe Basin have done their “fair share” to provide affordable housing.
TRPA’s governing board had been set to take action next week, possibly agreeing that El Dorado, Douglas and Washoe counties haven’t done enough to provide low- or very low-income housing. However, at a TRPA Advisory Planning Commission meeting Wednesday, officials from those jurisdictions said there was more information the agency should consider.
“Maybe we’re premature in making a final determination here today,” said Sharon Kvas, Washoe County’s representative on the planning commission.
In 1996, TRPA’s governing board approved an Affordable Housing Needs Assessment, or “fair share report,” which identified each jurisdiction’s responsibility for providing affordable housing.
In the Tahoe Basin, however, with expensive land and a complicated process involved to develop it, it is difficult and often too expensive to build affordable housing.
“It’s damn near impossible to put affordable housing anywhere, much less the Tahoe Basin,” said advisory commission member Ron McIntyre. “Are we making it practical and affordable (to build affordable housing)?”
Others don’t agree about the difficulty.
“Obviously, it’s not impossible to do it,” said Kevin Cole, former South Lake Tahoe City Council member and the California lay member to the advisory commission. “The city of South Lake Tahoe has made a commitment and a concerted effort to do it, and it has been very successful.”
Each year TRPA has revisited the issue in December. Previously TRPA’s board always recommended all the jurisdictions – Douglas, Washoe, Placer and El Dorado counties along with the city of South Lake Tahoe – demonstrate a commitment to assume their fair share.
Only the city of South Lake Tahoe and Placer County have demonstrated a commitment to assume their fair share of affordable housing, according to TRPA.
This is the first time TRPA staff has recommended not recognizing the efforts of all the Tahoe jurisdictions.
“We feel very strongly five years is enough time to draw the line,” said Gabby Barrett, TRPA chief of long-range planning.
If what TRPA staff proposed was to be approved, it could hinder the development of housing subdivisions within those regions for at least a year.
Margo Osti, a South Shore resident and former South Lake Tahoe City Council member, urged TRPA to take a stronger stance. There isn’t a “public will” to provide affordable housing, she said, and governments won’t do the work unless they are essentially forced into it. The city worked to provide affordable housing because it was a condition of redevelopment.
Osti recommended taking action that “goes beyond the subdivision moratorium.”
“Cut off allocations until there is a public will,” she said. ” … You don’t build anything. Nothing. No new residential projects until those standards are met.”
What the currently proposed action would do is prohibit housing subdivisions from being built in areas where affordable housing is an allowed use, essentially keeping higher-priced subdivisions from taking limited building space.
That prohibition would stay in place at least until TRPA revisited the issue in December 2000.
South Lake Tahoe participated in two affordable housing projects in 1999: rehabilitation of the 70-unit Tahoe Valley Townhomes and the completion of the 45-unit Tahoe Senior Plaza.
There is no recognized income-restricted affordable housing in the Douglas County portion of the basin. However, Mimi Moss, the county’s appointee to the advisory board, said Douglas in 1999 did participate in finding grants to help fund an affordable housing project planned near Kingsbury Grade. She said that was an important step for the agency and should be considered by TRPA.
Washoe County’s Kvas said there also is information there that hasn’t been taken into consideration.
Board member Cole said he “reluctantly” agreed to the one-month postponement.
“We’ve got to put our foot down at some point,” he said.
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