What’s next for Tahoe-Truckee’s housing crisis?
NNBW News Service
“Prices drive out locals in Truckee,” according to a 2003 Associated Press article in the Los Angeles Times.
Thirteen years later, in August 2016, Truckee Town Manager Tony Lashbrook told the Sierra Sun, “To me, the housing study confirms what we already knew.”
It has been four months since the Truckee-Tahoe Community Foundation released its regional housing study, finding that 76 percent of local residents overpay for housing.
While next steps remain unclear, there is an effort underway to get various local governments and businesses on the same page.
“We’ve been walking the presentation around the community since it was released,” said the foundation’s CEO, Stacy Caldwell.
“We’ve been making it available to as many organizations and venues who want it,” she said. “We’ve hit rotary and the chamber, the two counties and the town, different special districts, so we’ve collectively presented to more than 30 different groups, including our donors, so we’ve got people who can help.”
Caldwell said the presentations she’s been giving around the region consist of both a summary of the report’s findings as well as a list of recommendations on how to move forward.
“When we started that study, we still had people saying, ‘There’s no shortage, there’s no housing crisis,” she said.
The study found that 76 percent of local residents spend more than 30 percent of their income, what is considered “affordable” by both state and federal standards, on housing.
Additionally, it estimated that 5,500 new residents will call North Lake Tahoe home by 2030, and that currently 58.6 percent of the local workforce commutes to the region for work while living in other areas.
“We feel like we’ve already got all of the resources, but we also feel like we need to bring them together,” Caldwell said. “We didn’t do this (study) to let it sit on a shelf, but at the same time, in order to mobilize bigger solutions, you have to coordinate across agencies.”
Anyone who’s ever done business in the Lake Tahoe area knows the myriad acronymed agencies, some government and some nonprofit, aren’t always the easiest from which to get approval.
Caldwell said she hopes that getting all of the local stakeholders working together on the housing issue will help get those various groups in agreement about some solutions they can then put into action.
The study, completed by Bay Area-based BAE Urban Economics, recommended the creation of a regional housing council and the development of a housing solutions fund. Caldwell said the council would decide how to spend the fund.
“So now what you’re seeing is formalizing happening,” she said.
The foundation is seeking stakeholders to sign onto a three-year commitment with the council, and to contribute whatever funds are possible for it.
The Truckee Tahoe Airport District has allocated $150,000 over the next three years and committed to participating on the council, according to a statement from TTCF.
Vail Resorts, which owns Northstar California, has committed to the council and dedicated $30,000 to its efforts over the next three years. Other stakeholders, Caldwell said, are currently discussing what they can provide.
“I suspect by late March, we’ll have all the commitments in,” she said.
Caldwell said the reason TTCF is asking for a three-year commitment is to avoid having to reassess who’s involved each year.
She also stressed the importance of involving a variety of stakeholders, no matter how large their voice in the community.
“I want to be very inclusive. If a small party comes to the table and wants to be involved, we’re going to negotiate,” she said. “Some play a bigger role in housing, some have budgets dedicated to this and some don’t even have a budget line for it, but they know that their employees don’t have a place to live if they don’t help with this.”
Part of this strategy, Caldwell said, is to get so many groups involved that if one or two need to back out, the community still has enough momentum to keep moving forward.
“The community foundation sees this as an opportunity to think differently about housing in the region and to get so many stakeholders involved that if someone flakes, the whole thing doesn’t fall apart,” she said.
This Tuesday’s Good Morning Truckee Meeting was expected to focus on the housing issue, but the recent severe storm warnings caused the meeting to be canceled.
Lynn Saunders, CEO of the Truckee Donner Chamber of Commerce, said in an email Tuesday morning that the chamber and Good Morning Truckee partners are looking to reschedule, but no date had been confirmed.
Heather Ashbridge, who started with Nevada State Development Corporation in 2008, previously served in several roles with the organization, including assistant vice president and loan officer. She is based in NSDC’s Reno office.