Tahoe housing crisis: Higher density key, officials say

TRUCKEE, Calif. — Combating the housing crisis with higher-density developments was a primary talking point at the Mountain Housing Council's annual update last weekend.

“There's fear around density. We hear people are afraid of the traffic, the change it will make to the community, the people that will live there and the risk of fire,” said Seana Doherty, project director for the council. “What about the fear of having a vacant community? What if density was less about units and more about humans?”

According to data from the council, 53% of workforce in North Lake Tahoe lives out of the area. “Our community vibrancy is threatened because people leave here every day,” said Doherty.

“Just thinking as density as a number tends to scare people,” said Truckee Town Manager Jeff Loux. He said the key is to create density close to services, where existing infrastructure can support more residents such as downtown areas.

“When you build housing like that people are more likely to walk, bike and take transit,” said Meea Kang, senior vice president of Related California Affordable.

One such project that is already in the works is the 11.4-acre property in the Dollar Hill area which sits on a Tahoe Truckee Area Regional Transit route, with easy access to the Dollar Creek Trail.

While the project is in early stages of planning, the developers are proposing a total of 206 units, including 192 apartments of various sizes and 14 single-family homes.

“Creating new compact developments in Tahoe will help people live in a system where high-quality life is normal,” said Kang.

Though added volume of building new units may help combat the lack of affordable housing for Lake Tahoe's workforce, those efforts are often hindered by high construction costs. To achieve more units housing council officials said there needs to be a broader focus on funding efforts.

“We need more predictable streams of funding and we need more advocacy for funding,” said Stacy Caldwell, chief executive officer of the Tahoe Truckee Community Foundation. She said in the next year they will start focusing on the right financial tools they need and coordinating those efforts between the different entities in North Lake Tahoe.


Another option for combatting the housing crisis in the area is focusing on opening up existing homes to the workforce rather than building new ones.

Tahoe Landing, created by Colin and Kai Frolich, is a new online platform similar to Airbnb that matches second-home owners to local employees seeking seasonal or long-term rentals.

“The opportunity is not converting short term rentals but going after second homes,” said Colin Frolich.

According to Tahoe Landing's data there are 25,569 housing units in eastern Placer County. Of those units, 6,980 are occupied by full-time residents, 1,590 are long-term rentals, 3,461 are short-term rentals and 17,310 second homes.

By creating a convenient way to connect second-home owners and potential renters, Frolich said he hopes to drive the costs of renting down.

A 2016 regional housing study reported that the region lacked 12,160 units to serve the local workforce. Of those units, 57% are needed for low income households.

According to a Truckee town staff report, there are currently 611 affordable housing units in Truckee that are either constructed, being built or approved. Out of the town's 13,232 units, the 611 affordable units make up 4.6% of the housing stock.

A primary challenge for the council is coordinating their efforts between the their 29 partners, the Town of Truckee, two counties and 18 special districts.

“We know we have to work together,” said Doherty. “No one entity can solve our housing problem.”

Hannah Jones is a reporter for the Sierra Sun. She can be reached at 530-550-2652 or hjones@sierrasun.com.


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