Laurie Johnson

TRPA Changes to Guest House Structures Lake Tahoe

As home prices continue to rise in Lake Tahoe, the disparity between prices and what locals can afford has become a major challenge for our community. If Lake Tahoe should become unaffordable for locals, we risk losing our work force. This includes teachers, nurses, firefighters, retail clerks, waiters and the services they provide.

This issue not only affects whether or not they can buy a home, but the rental market has also skyrocketed. If our work force continues to get squeezed out of available rentals or purchase options, the entire area will suffer.

In the Tahoe portion of Placer County, local homeownership rates sank from 10% of new homes in 2010 to 6% in 2019. Over this same period, 75% of new homes built in the South Shore were listed at over $550,000. This is far above what is considered affordable for local residents.

To address this issue, TRPA kicked off the Housing and Community Revitalization Initiative in June of 2020. They are working collaboratively with partner agencies and organizations. Together, they are implementing strategies that incentivize homeowners to provide affordable housing for locals.

About TRPA

Established in 1969, the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency was the nation’s first bi-state regional environmental planning agency. Their mission is to lead the cooperative effort to preserve, restore, and enhance the unique natural and human environment of Lake Tahoe. They also seek to improve local communities, and people’s interactions with our irreplaceable environment.

The housing strategy TRPA is adopting seeks to revitalize the local community. The Tahoe Living Working Group is listening to local governments and stakeholders about Regional Plan amendments that can encourage a variety of affordable and achievable housing types. Some of their ideas are quite innovative.

Last year, they partnered with the Tahoe Coalition for the Homeless and transformed old motels into transitional housing before winter set in.

I am on the regional advisory board and attend TRPA meetings. Because of the changes TRPA is implementing to increase affordable housing, I see a great opportunity for my customers.

Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs)

An accessory dwelling is commonly referred to as a secondary unit, granny unit, or guest house. ADUs are smaller buildings that share the same lot of a larger, primary residence. Examples include a detached guesthouse or a garage with a rented apartment above. In the past, the ordinances for these units were very restrictive.

In the Placer County portion of the Tahoe Basin, ADUs are currently permissible on parcels less than one acre. However, they require that ADUs be deed-restricted for affordability, as authorized in the Placer County Area Plan. ADUs are allowed on parcels larger than one acre. For more information on currently allowable ADUs, click here.

You can also visit this site and scroll down to the map. Use the address/APN search feature to see if your property is eligible for an ADU.

Changes to ADUs

Affordability is a statewide issue. In 2019, California passed a law requiring local jurisdictions to permit ADUs on all single-family and multi-family parcels. The California jurisdictions in Tahoe will issue a permit for an ADU. The caveat is that those ADUs must also comply with current TRPA regulations listed above.

The good news is that TRPA is in the process of revising requirements related to ADUs. Through the Tahoe Living Working Group process, they have begun a discussion of possible code changes.

This includes:

  • Maximum 2 units per property “given coverage is available on the site.”
  • Incentivizing for affordable housing- TRPA will gift or give you one building allocation right. This is worth about $35-50,000, and for use on another site.

Changes to Levels of Housing Affordability

Definitions related to affordable, moderate, and achievable housing can differ slightly between agencies. Consistent with federal and state housing subsidy programs, TRPA recognizes and provides incentives to affordable and moderate income levels.

In 2018, TRPA added an additional level of affordability, known as achievable, that targets households that make too much to qualify for traditional housing subsidies, but too little to afford the median priced home of Lake Tahoe.

TRPA uses area median income which is a metric to determine federal income eligibility. The following income levels are recognized by TRPA:

  • Affordable: Up to 80% Area Median Income (AMI)
  • Moderate: 80% - 120% AMI
  • Achievable: Above 120%, varies by county
  • Market-Rate: Ownership or rental of housing with no subsidy provided is attainable

I think that this is an excellent step in encouraging affordability for the rental market, while offering greater opportunity on investment returns for homeowners.

Navigating the local ordinances can be tricky, so contact me for help in understanding these changes. I love how the Lake Tahoe community is always coming together to solve its challenges in innovative ways.

Contact me today for a no obligation property analysis on your home and for more information on coverage and TRPA ordinances.





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