Fulfilling Workforce Housing Needs in the Lake Tahoe Region
Having sufficient workforce housing in walkable communities is a key strategy in the Lake Tahoe Region to help reduce car travel and improve public safety by providing housing for critical workers such as emergency services, police, and fire, among others. By supporting and encouraging workforce housing solutions, the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency (TRPA) is implementing the Sustainable Communities Strategy and workforce housing goals of the Lake Tahoe Regional Plan.
One of several strategies TRPA continues to use is deed restricting affordable and workforce housing units. An income- or employment-based housing deed restriction is something a property owner records with the grant deed or title of their property with terms that specify things like sales and rental restrictions, limits on the income levels of households that live in the properties, or local employment requirements. Once the deed restriction is recorded with the appropriate assessor’s office, it becomes permanent and legally binding.
Deed restrictions can add new housing or preserve existing housing stock at several rates, including affordable, moderate, or achievable, each of which can help local residents and workers remain in the community. While housing studies have estimated how much additional workforce housing is needed in the Tahoe Basin, TRPA is also working to protect existing deed-restricted affordable housing units that have been secured in the past.
How Deed Restrictions Help
There are three main ways that TRPA has used deed restrictions over the years:
Issuing deed-restricted residential development rights to large projects allows local housing partners to successfully access state and federal grants and land donations for deed-restricted “affordable,” and “moderate” income housing. This kind of support has helped affordable housing developers, local jurisdictions, and the Saint Joseph Community Land Trust to complete subsidized housing projects of various sizes and types. It also helped Lake Tahoe Community College secure funding for a 100-bed on-campus living facility for low-income students that broke ground in August 2023.
To build a home, condo, or multi-family unit in Tahoe, a residential development right (also known as a residential unit of use), is needed; however, to achieve and maintain environmental quality in the region, TRPA has capped growth and manages the limited amount of new development through an annual allocation process. Because these development rights are limited and sometimes costly, the agency created a Bonus Unit Incentive Pool that helps property owners who create deed-restricted affordable housing avoid delays, limitations, and additional costs of using standard development rights.
Developers or homeowners who build apartments or accessory dwelling units and who deed restrict the unit for use by local workers, or households in the “affordable” or “moderate” income categories can receive residential development rights from the Bonus Unit pool, plus additional incentives, such as fee waivers. New allowances such as additional building height, land coverage, and lower parking requirements are also under consideration for these deed-restricted units.
In 2018, following guidance from local housing advocates and a new working group, TRPA created an additional deed restriction category called “achievable” housing. This was intended to incentivize the construction of housing for the “missing middle” – those workers who make too much to qualify for subsidized housing and not enough to purchase a home.
Mitigation for the loss of existing affordable- and moderate-income housing
TRPA ordinances protect existing workforce housing by prohibiting subdivision of de facto affordable- and moderate-income housing units into condominiums unless the loss of those units is mitigated. De facto affordable housing are units that are affordable because of the way they have been historically managed or sold, such as mobile home parks and older apartment buildings. Since the 2000s, TRPA has required multiple project applicants to dedicate deed-restricted units as part of projects that replaced affordable housing with condominiums or other development.
There are approximately 250 of these early deed-restricted units in the Tahoe Basin, most of them in large rental apartment buildings.
Compliance with Deed Restrictions
TRPA monitors, tracks, and enforces compliance with deed restrictions in several ways:
- Beginning in 2018, TRPA established a requirement for new deed-restricted units to submit an annual compliance form. See also the full compliance form which is submitted electronically. There are financial penalties for failure to submit the form, and higher penalties for failure to comply with the requirements of the deed restrictions.
- There are approximately 250 deed-restricted units basin-wide required under early efforts to protect existing workforce housing. TRPA has issued letters to owners of all deed-restricted units to ensure that owners understand the terms of their deed restriction, and to let them know that they may be audited and required to furnish documentation showing that the home is in compliance.
- In particular, TRPA has focused on 95 units in multiple locations in Incline Village, Nevada. TRPA has established that approximately 75 percent of these units are in compliance with the requirements of their deed restriction. The agency has issued letters to all 95 of the units to ensure they understand the terms of the deed restriction and has issued follow-up letters requesting documentation to another 71 of the units.
- In addition to the annual compliance form for properties with deed-restrictions recorded after 2018, TRPA will also conduct an annual audit of a portion of all deed-restricted units, requiring documentation showing compliance. The results of this audit will be provided to the Governing Board in an annual report. This audit will be conducted by an independent third-party.
- For violations of TRPA’s Code of Ordinances, including deed restriction violations, enforcement actions can include penalties of up to $5,000 per day. Actions carried out by the TRPA code enforcement team generally result in compliance. In other cases, the agency can file a civil complaint seeking penalties and an injunction. The agency’s primary goal would be to reinstate deed-restricted affordable housing and cover enforcement costs, however a financial judgement or settlement could result.
Understanding Deed-Restricted Properties
Information about individual properties may be found on TRPA’s Lake Tahoe Info Parcel Tracker. The parcel summary will show if a deed restriction is on record for a property. If one is recorded, the parcel tracker lists a summary of the terms of the deed restriction, as well as a copy of the deed restriction itself. It also shows a record of communication with the homeowner, if any, and enforcement cases.
While information on individual parcels is openly available on Lake Tahoe Info, TRPA policies do not allow the release of lists or personal addresses of property owners who participate in TRPA programs such as deed-restrictions. As of August 2023, TRPA is in the process of contracting with a third-party consultant, HousingInc., to conduct the annual compliance and monitoring of deed-restrictions, to produce an annual report on the compliance status of all deed-restricted units which will be available to the Governing Board and the public, and to make recommendations for improvements to the process as a whole. The agency annually reports the status of all deed restrictions as part of its Performance Measures Report, and the first report on the status of the deed-restrictions is anticipated to be available in February of 2024.