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Lake Tahoe, NV/CA – The Tahoe Regional Planning Agency (TRPA) Governing Board approved a package of affordable and workforce housing incentives Wednesday to help address the housing crisis that is impacting Lake Tahoe’s environment and communities. The targeted changes to Lake Tahoe zoning regulations will lower the cost to provide affordable and workforce housing, benefit water quality, and reduce traffic and vehicle use, the agency said today.
Following three hours of public testimony, the board adopted the policy changes with refinements based on community and board member feedback.
Rising property values are only part of the housing crisis affecting Lake Tahoe communities, according to TRPA. The development caps and building design requirements enacted by the agency decades ago to save the lake are partly driving the market toward large, single-family homes versus smaller, more affordable multi-family units such as duplexes, triplexes, and apartments.
With a limited amount of new development allowed under the Lake Tahoe Regional Plan, major renovation, redevelopment, and new projects must achieve multiple goals, according to TRPA. Existing incentives encourage water quality and transportation improvements on commercial and tourist accommodation properties. Extending additional incentives to deed-restricted multi-family projects is a key priority for the agency.
“When you look at this breathtaking lake and then recognize what is happening to people and businesses in our communities, it’s heartbreaking,” said TRPA Executive Director Julie Regan. “In resort communities in Tahoe and across the nation, it’s getting harder for people to live where they work. The status quo is unacceptable and these changes are one of many solutions needed.”
The approved policy changes require a high level of stormwater Best Management Practices to protect water quality. The goal is to build public-private partnerships that deliver more affordable housing throughout Lake Tahoe.
Highlights on the new housing incentives:
- They apply only to projects close to transit and services that provide permanently deed-restricted units for lower income and local workers.
- Projects in town centers can apply for more flexible building designs with additional land coverage, up to 9 additional feet of height, more units allowed within the building envelope, and reduced parking if the project will implement alternatives like a car-share or shared-parking agreement.
- Smaller projects in surrounding multi-family residential zones can apply for similar, stepped down incentives to encourage more duplexes, triplexes, and accessory dwelling units.
“Our communities are struggling,” said TRPA Governing Board Chair and Placer County District 5 Supervisor Cindy Gustafson. “I am seeing boarded up buildings in my community of Tahoe City for the first time in the 40 years I have lived here. This approval gives the Tahoe Basin one more tool that the local jurisdictions can choose to use, but we know we need to keep making progress on additional solutions to strengthen our communities and protect some of Tahoe’s most at-risk community members.”
Within a year, local governments are required to align the changes with their local area plans. Area plan updates also allow local communities to tailor the extra allowances as long as they work toward regional housing goals.
Starting in early 2024, TRPA staff will initiate a multi-year effort to more comprehensively integrate housing, equity, and climate goals into key land-use and water quality programs. The agency was recently awarded $2.4 million in grant funding from the California Department of Housing and Community Development to help with further improvements that will benefit the entire region.
To get involved, visit trpa.gov/housing and sign up for the agency’s housing eNews.
TRPA Principal Planner Karen Fink says more workers are living in unsafe, untenable housing conditions or being forced out entirely, which increases commuter traffic along with the climate and water quality impacts that come from more cars on the road. A regional housing needs assessment estimated an additional 5,800 workforce housing units are needed in the basin. The new policies apply to around 940 development rights reserved for deed-restricted workforce housing units.
Additional data on the growth management system in the Tahoe Region is showing that earlier Regional Plan environmental analyses planned for new development under the growth caps that hasn’t all come forward. Overall, there is less development happening in the Tahoe Basin than what was projected in both the 1987 and 2012 Regional Plans.
“We have to do a lot with a little,” Fink said. “Our housing strategic priority doesn’t add residential units beyond the existing development caps. We are making it more likely that our limited remaining growth, approved years ago by the Governing Board, will be built as homes that are affordable to local workers and families. There have to be feasible alternatives to building high-end, single-family homes.” She said Tahoe’s land-use, transportation, and water quality programs should be able to accommodate and benefit from multi-family projects that house vital community members, such as firefighters, teachers, and health care and service workers.
The agency received comments of support and concern during the public vetting process. Feedback led to refinements that added greater ability for local governments and communities to tailor some of the changes. The incentives were also changed to offer lower height limits in areas surrounding town centers and specified certain income and local employment criteria for the 25 percent of workforce housing development rights reserved for the “achievable” level of deed-restriction.
Additional protections built into the policy changes include:
- Projects that apply for incentives cannot be used as short-term rentals or become high-end homes. Deed-restrictions are enforceable, and units will be monitored through annual compliance programs.
- All projects in the basin are required to meet high standards for water quality protection, scenic quality, and compatibility with local communities.
- The policies aim to reduce employee car travel into and out of the basin and concentrate multi-family units in walkable areas close to transit and services. All development in the basin is capped and no new development above the caps is allowed by the changes.
- TRPA scientifically measures and reports cumulative changes in the Tahoe Basin every four years through the Environmental Threshold Report. The report ensures policies are working to achieve and maintain environmental threshold goals for the region. The next one will be published in 2024.
The agency was recently awarded $2.4 million in grant funding from the California Department of Housing and Community Development to help with Phase 3 improvements that will benefit the entire region. In particular, the agency will work within the community to consider fundamental imbalances in policies such as those that continue to skew development toward higher-end uses rather than naturally affordable homes.
Over the coming year, the agency will work with local partners to establish long-term, two-way community engagement with a particular focus on disadvantaged and historically underrepresented communities to advance housing choices, reduce vehicle miles traveled, and build upon the region’s Sustainable Communities Strategy, a key transportation policy document.
The Tahoe Regional Planning Agency leads the cooperative effort to preserve, restore, and enhance the unique natural and human environment of the Lake Tahoe Region, while improving local communities, and people’s interactions with our irreplaceable environment. For additional information, contact Jeff Cowen, Public Information Officer, at (775) 589-5278 or email@example.com.