Creative Solutions to Grow Housing Supply
Written by: Trevor Husted
New residents to the area and a housing shortage are creating even more of a demand to support the local workforce.
When I received a text message from my landlord notifying me that I had 60 days to clear out of my home, where I’d lived for eight years, I was devastated. He was going to sell it. This was during the fall of 2020, and COVID had seemed to be at a lull before it reared its ugly head again. Still, the fairytale was over: My roommates and I had managed to live at a rate that was at least affordable to us, and now we were suddenly scattered and desperately looking for a new place to call home in a market that was saturated with overpriced houses and limited rental options. As someone who had been a resident of Tahoe City for over a decade, I contacted everyone I knew, but I still wasn’t having any luck in my search. Tahoe City was home and I tried my best to cling on to the lakeside community that I had come to love for more than a decade.
The short end of the story finishes on a positive note, with a lot of vigorous searching that eventually led me to a new rental home. The full story reflects the systemic issues that have displaced a number of our community members from the area. I’m not writing this piece to be sappy, or to make others feel sorry for me, or even to point fingers at new residents or county officials, I am writing it because I want to help others avoid the same fate in our community. While COVID-19 has presented its fair share of problems, it is a relief to know that there are people and organizations like the Mountain Housing Council working behind the scenes to try and make positive changes with housing in the community, and with these programs comes awareness for the general community.
While it will still take a lot of creativity to continue to live in the Truckee-Tahoe area in the coming years, especially for those who make lower salaries, it is hopeful to know that, in time, housing opportunities may become more plentiful. As someone who did not have a clue about the specifics of the housing crisis, I felt that I could best help by highlighting some of the programs that are currently underway in our region to help solve it.
One of the more recent highlights involves Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs). ADU’s are typically smaller units either built into a house or stand-alone, and provide another living space for individuals or families (think in-law and granny units, as well as garage or basement conversions and backyard cottages). By pursuing the expansion of ADU programs, those behind them hope to increase workforce housing because the cost to invest in an ADU is exceptionally lower than building a house (and involves more infill/less sprawl). Truckee is incentivizing both homeowners and proprietors to pursue ADUs by providing mini grants and loans, and Placer County is making it easier than ever to pursue an ADU on your property by providing free pre-approved floor plans for the units. Once in place, pursuant to California law, these units cannot serve as short term rentals (i.e. for a period of 30 days or less). There are a number of resources online that provide additional information on ADU-related rules, regulations, costs and fees, as well as Frequently Asked Questions and a ‘fast facts’ informational sheet. All of this information can be found here:
Another push community officials have been promoting to create more local housing is an incentivized approach for homeowners to rent to the local workforce. Truckee began this approach in October of 2020 as a pilot program that offered $3,000 grants to those homeowners willing to rent to locals. This has since developed into the ‘Workforce Rental Grant Program,’ and includes six grants that allow homeowners to make upwards of $10,000 to rent out their properties. You can find out more on Truckee’s Workforce Rental Grant Program Page.
In Placer County, officials have developed the ‘Workforce Housing Preservation Program,’ modeled after the innovative and acclaimed “Vail inDEED” program, which involves encouraging homeowners to deed restrict their property. What is a deed restriction? Deed restriction clauses restrict or limit what can be built on a property and/or how the property can be used. In this case, the program essentially pays homeowners to deed restrict their properties such that only local workers can thereafter purchase or rent the property in an effort to preserve local workforce housing in the long-run. At full implementation, Placer County plans to buy 40 new deed restrictions each year in Eastern Placer County/North Lake Tahoe, a move that is expected to cost $3 million annually, but will also open up substantial opportunities for eligible local participants to afford homes at a price below what the market dictates. More information can be found here: Placer County Affordable Housing Program
There are also several loan programs offered in the area, including the Martis Fund Homebuyer Assistance Program, which provides down-payment assistance for qualified individuals or families, and Placer County’s First Time Homebuyer Assistance Program, which provides the second mortgage on a family or individual’s first home purchase throughout the unincorporated areas of Placer County.
Some of these programs have been revitalized, while others are completely new, and may take some time to get up and running. Regardless, it is refreshing to know that additional options will be coming available for the local workforce and, in the near future, we could potentially start to see a noticeable change when it comes to housing availability for our local community members.
The following is a shared post from one local resident. Trevor Husted is a Tahoe based guide and freelance writer. A big part of his mission in life is to attempt to find a fine balance between travel, guiding, writing, giving back to the community, and spreading inspiration to others. More of his information and articles can be found at trevorhusted.com.