The shipping container project on Sierra St. in Truckee has a three-bedroom rental upstairs and a two-bedroom secondary unit downstairs.

Rick Lee’s idea has become reality.

What started as a bold concept to turn shipping containers into long-term rental housing for Truckee-North Tahoe locals has materialized. A three-bedroom home combined with a two-bedroom secondary unit opened its doors in late July in Truckee’s Armstrong Tract neighborhood.

The project shows how one person’s energy vision and perseverance can lead to creative housing solutions in Truckee and North Tahoe. And it highlights how a partnership with the Truckee Tahoe Airport District made the project a reality.

The airport district contributed $60,000 to help the project pencil out in exchange for airport employees having first right to the rental housing.

Lee, who founded and owned a boat building company, had lived in Tahoe in the 1970s and raised his children in Incline Village. He was aware of the housing shortage, but surprised at how severe it had become.

When he investigated the rental market and found hundreds of vacation rentals on the market but only a handful of long-term rentals, he decided to build a project that would meet the need for local rental housing. The Tahoe Truckee Community Foundation’s North Tahoe Regional Workforce Housing Needs Assessment was also a key document that helped Lee understand the housing need in the area.

He purchased 11 lots off of Sierra Drive at the bottom of the Armstrong Tract neighborhood and set to work designing a home built from shipping containers on one of the lots.

The home was a unique structure made possible by a change in state zoning laws that allowed secondary units. The primary residence, constructed from three shipping containers, sits above the secondary unit.

“It was not going to happen unless you tried something really bold, and this was something bold,” said Lee.

The homes will rent out at $750 per bedroom — $1,500 for the two-bedroom unit and $2,250 for the three-bedroom unit — and will only be offered to to full-time local renters for the next 15 years.

While the shipping container build proved more complicated than Lee originally expected, he hopes to continue building on the remaining 10 neighboring lots with similar models, although he may not utilize the shipping containers on those homes.

The first model, however, sparked conversation and pioneered a new solution for long-term local rental housing in the area.

“I think the concept got some attention and got some people thinking,” said Lee.

Mountain Housing Council Program Director Seana Doherty (left), developer Rick Lee (center) and Tahoe Truckee Community Foundation CEO Stacy Caldwell (right) celebrate the opening of the shipping container housing project.


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