Housing Help Available to Local Residents


By Heidi Volkhardt Allstead

On October 30, Nevada County and USDA Rural Development teamed up to host a workshop in Grass Valley to discuss financial program opportunities available to Truckee and North Tahoe residents. The workshop introduced attendees to opportunities like single family housing direct home loans, guaranteed loans, and housing repair loans as well as grants for very-low to moderate income homebuyers and homeowners living in rural communities. This is good news for people living in Truckee, Kings Beach, or Tahoe City who meet the eligibility requirements. The workshop discussed the following loan programs:

Single Family Housing Direct Loans – This program offers affordable mortgage loans to low- and very-low-income homebuyers in eligible rural areas, generally with a population less than 35,000. There are no down payment or mortgage insurance requirements, and the maximum loan for Nevada County is $381,800. Loans are all fixed rate and can be used to purchase, build, repair or renovate an eligible home. For more information click here.

Single Family Home Loan Guarantees – This program is very similar to the direct loan program, but mortgage loans are provided by one of USDA’s approved lenders (a list is available at http://www.rd.usda.gov/ca). Guaranteed mortgage loans are available to low- and moderate-income homebuyers in eligible rural areas, generally with a population less than 35,000. There are no down payment or mortgage insurance requirements, and there is no maximum loan amount for the county. Loans are all fixed rate and can be used to purchase, build, repair or renovate an eligible home. For more information about the program click here.

Single Family Housing Repair Loans and Grants – This program helps very-low-income homeowners repair, improve, or modernize their home. Funding is available to homeowners in eligible rural areas, generally with a population less than 35,000. The maximum loan is $20,000 and has a fixed rate of one percent. Grants up to $7,500 are available only to homeowners age 62 or older who cannot afford a loan and need to remove health and safety hazards. For more information about this program click here.

~ Heidi Volkhardt Allstead is the program director for The Martis Fund. Learn more at martisfund.org

California Voters Approve Housing Propositions

Approximately $6 billion will flow into affordable housing efforts across California after voters approved two housing propositions on November 6.

Proposition 1 and 2 could result in tens of thousands of new homes being built across the state and help alleviate California’s deepening housing crisis. The California Secretary of State estimated that Proposition 1 alone would help fund 30,000 multi-family housing units and 7,500 homes for farm workers.

The funding will also be used for loan assistance, housing projects near transit, and support for veterans and people with mental illness.

Proposition 1 passed with approximately 54 percent of the vote. Proposition 2 passed with approximately 61 percent approval.

The statewide support for housing initiatives shows how housing has become a key issue for voters.

“There is a strong political constituency for the work we do,” wrote Rob Wiener, executive director for the California Coalition for Rural Housing in an email to supporters.


Sacramento Will Waive City Fees for Affordable Housing Projects

The Sacramento City Council took a decisive step toward encouraging and supporting more affordable housing by waiving the city’s development fees for affordable housing projects.

The Oct. 30 vote to waive the fees was a direct response to the housing crisis affecting the Sacramento area and the elimination of redevelopment agencies that had previously supported the development of affordable housing within the city.

“Funding for affordable housing has fallen dramatically since the dissolution of the state’s redevelopment agencies in 2012, and as a result, affordable housing production has dropped precipitously,” the Sacramento City Council report said.

To qualify for the fee waiver, projects must be multi-family structures restricted as affordable to residents making less than the city’s median income. The fee waiver will not increase the fees on market-rate housing projects, but will decrease revenue to the city by approximately $1 million per year.

Development fees have come into focus as one way that municipalities can attract private investors to develop new housing for residents who are unable to afford market-rate housing, which can often be out of reach for median and below median income earners. In fact, Tahoe-Truckee, market-rate housing is out of reach for those earning up to 195% of the median income (learn more here). Fees are important in an environment where construction and land costs are sky-rocketing, because they can be a deciding factor in a housing project with thin margins and a tight budget. Municipalities are examining options like fee waivers, fee deferrals, or scalable fees that are based on the size of units, number of bedrooms, or number of fixtures.

The Sacramento City Council report noted that under the fee waiver program, a 200-unit affordable housing project would save between $1.8 million and $2.7 million on fees, depending on which part of the city it was located in.

The Mountain Housing Council has finalized its own set of recommendations on development fees in Truckee-North Tahoe, suggesting ways that local government agencies can spur more achievable local housing investment by revising their development fee structure.

Learn more about Mountain Housing Council’s efforts here.

Downpayment Assistance Launched for Local Homebuyers

Downpayments can be a big roadblock for locals looking to purchase a home in Truckee and North Tahoe. Not only do they require gathering precious cash right before making perhaps the biggest investment of a lifetime, but smaller downpayments can kick in mortgage insurance premiums, making already large monthly payments even more unaffordable.

The Martis Fund is partnering with the Sierra Business Council to help some locals overcome that housing hurdle. With $500,000 in funding, the program will dole out up to $50,000 or 10 percent of the home purchase price to qualifying local homebuyers at a three percent interest rate. The loan repayment can be deferred until the re-sale of the home under the program.

The downpayment assistance program is available to workers in Truckee and Eastern Placer County who make up to 180 percent of the median income in the region — roughly $144,180 for a family of four.

Loans will be made on a first-come-first-served basis. For more information on the program contact Gina Jones, Program Administrator, at gkjones@sierrabusiness.org. More information on the program is available here.

Local Housing Through the Eyes of the Developer

Oftentimes we think of housing from the perspective of homeowners, renters, employers, policymakers, and advocates. The Mountain Housing Council set out to share the perspective of the developer, a view often overlooked.

Developers are the ones who put money at risk, wade through the permitting and approval process, and deal with the challenges of construction. They are one of the keys to unlocking more achievable local housing. Policymakers can streamline the process, advocates can marshal support, and residents can make their voices heard — but in the end a developer is the one who puts a shovel in the ground to actually build housing.

To understand what developers encounter while developing a local housing project, we sat down to speak with Mike Foster of Triumph Development. Foster has a unique perspective on the process. He is currently building a project in Coburn Crossing near downtown Truckee with market-rate units and units that will be deed-restricted to local residents. Foster also has extensive experience building projects in another mountain town — Vail, Colorado.

Watch the video to get a unique behind-the-scenes perspective on the development process through the eyes of a developer currently building a Truckee project for local residents.


Annual Membership Luncheon Will Address Achievable Housing Solutions in North Lake Tahoe

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Headlining the event is George Ruther, Housing Director for the Town of Vail, CO; keynote will focus on long-range planning initiatives and the significance of a united community to implement change

Tickets to the Annual Membership Luncheon hosted by the North Lake Tahoe Resort Association | Chamber | CVB are on sale now; headlining the event is George Ruther, Housing Director for the Town of Vail, CO.

With more than 24 years of mountain resort community experience, Ruther is an expert in the creation and successful implementation of master plans and long-range planning initiatives focused on addressing resort community’s most challenging issues. Understanding that year-round residents are critical to maintaining and sustaining community, the Town of Vail views housing as infrastructure – a community support system – not unlike roads, bridges, water and sewer and similar services delivered by municipal government.

As local stakeholders in the North Lake Tahoe-Truckee region begin to identify viable housing solutions, the Luncheon will give perspective on innovative for-sale and for-rent developments along with leadership models that are both inspirational and unified. Ruther offers a unique glimpse into a community that has successfully established policies and funding sources.

The Membership Luncheon will take a solution-focused approach and demonstrate the importance of leveraging support from government and private sectors.

“The staggering reality of our housing crisis is that it is changing the fabric and nature of our community. The Town of Vail faced the same issue and has developed a community vision and come together to successfully address solutions,” explained Cindy Gustafson, CEO of the North Lake Tahoe Resort Association | Chamber | CVB and founding partner of the Mountain Housing Council. “This a topic that affects our entire business community.”

The Annual Membership Luncheon will be held on Wed., Oct. 17 from 11 a.m. – 2 p.m. at the North Tahoe Event Center in Kings Beach. Tickets are available for purchase via Eventbrite, cost for Chamber Members is $35 and cost for Non-Members is $45. Additional speakers include Cindy Gustafson, CEO of the North Lake Tahoe Resort Association I Chamber I CVB, Stacy Caldwell, CEO of the Tahoe Truckee Community Foundation, and Mayumi Elegado, Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of Moonshine Ink.

“Housing is everything,” stated Caldwell. “It is community. It is education. It is fire department response times and after-school programs. It is seeing a familiar face at a local concert and a friendly server at your favorite restaurant. Without housing our community crumbles.”


About North Lake Tahoe Resort Association: The North Lake Tahoe Chamber | Resort Association | CVB is celebrating 64 years of supporting small businesses and major resorts, ultimately enhancing the strong and vibrant North Tahoe community. The Resort Association combines Chamber of Commerce and Destination Marketing services to assist local businesses and connect community leaders. Supported by a contract with Placer County and Membership dues, the team is focused on midweek and shoulder season visitation, transportation and housing solutions, and visitor services. The North Tahoe Chamber ultimately provides a collective voice for the local community.

About Vail, CO Housing Department: Directly responsible for policy development; housing regulation implementation, compliance and oversight; lottery administration; program administration; and developments and initiatives which increase the overall supply and availability of housing opportunities within the community and throughout the region. The availability and affordability of housing remains the #1 most critical issue facing the Vail community.

Press Contact:

Liz Bowling
D: (530) 581-8778
C: (303) 726-7104

California’s Huge Housing Costs Examined in New Study


A new national study looks at what drives affordable housing project costs in California and other states.

A new study by the Government Accountability Office sheds light on the huge disparity between the cost of building in California and the rest of the nation.

The study was commissioned to look at projects that take advantage of the low-income housing credit — an incentive that has helped tens of thousands of affordable housing units go up across the country.

California tops the list of per-unit project costs in the study — beating even New York City and Chicago by a wide margin. And the price to build in some places in the nation is literally a fraction of California’s totals. For comparison, a project in Georgia built affordable housing for $104,000 per unit while a California project cost $606,000 per unit — a staggering difference of more than a half a million dollars per unit.

The study is also a unique glimpse into the components that make up the full price tag costs of low-income housing projects in California. California’s land prices were more than double the national average, according to the study. California’s softs costs — items like permit fees and construction loan interest — also topped the list. Interestingly, California’s construction hard costs were not the highest noted in the study. Chicago’s construction costs were significantly higher.

The study did examine some ways to bring housing project costs down, including showing that larger projects resulted in lower per-unit costs.

The Mountain Housing Council is examining many of these same issues in our local region, including the hard costs and soft costs that are barriers to achievable local housing.

To read more about the study, check out CityLab’s article Why Affordable Housing Isn’t More Affordable or read the actual study here.


Vail Housing Director to Present in Truckee Oct. 18

When it comes to local achievable housing, new ideas are welcome, but time-tested housing practices that have delivered proven results are equally valued.

Why reinvent the wheel — or, in this case, why reinvent housing policies and practices that have served other communities well?

With that in mind, the Mountain Housing Council of Tahoe Truckee has invited Vail Housing Director George Ruther to Truckee to speak on housing. Ruther is the Town of Vail’s newly appointed housing director and long-time community development director.

His appointment to a position solely focused on housing represents a new commitment by the Town of Vail to tackle the issue of housing affordability in the Colorado mountain town. That commitment is already paying off, with 183 deed-restricted local housing units on the books in 2017.

Ruther will share what has worked in Vail, which could be a blueprint for certain Truckee and Tahoe housing policies and programs. To learn more about housing programs in Vail and George go to: https://www.vaildaily.com/news/vail-names-longtime-employee-george-ruther-towns-new-housing-director/

The event will be held  11 a.m. on Oct. 18 at 11012 Donner Pass Road in Truckee. Learn more and register for the event here.

Housing Costs 101

Ask 10 people what drives housing costs out of reach of many families and you will likely get 10 different answers.

KQUED recently published a more in-depth look at what is driving California’s housing prices, highlighting five main drivers of the Golden State’s sky-high real estate valuations.

The article is enlightening because it shows the complex array of issues housing advocates face as they work to make more of the state’s housing stock attainable to local families.

The Mountain Housing Council is deeply involved in confronting these challenges. From advocating for more streamlined permit processes to encouraging secondary units as a way to bolster housing supply, we know that many simultaneous efforts, not one single solution, is the key to addressing the housing crisis we face.

Read the KQUED article here, and stay tuned for Mountain Housing Council’s policy recommendations and other innovative solutions to make housing accessible to local families and workers.


How Modular Construction Can Unlock More Achievable Local Housing

Until recently,  homes had traditionally  been constructed one way — stick built from the ground up.

This tried-and-true building method has its benefits like complete customization, but it also has several drawbacks. Construction is often halted by weather, especially in a wildly variable environment like North Tahoe-Truckee where construction can drag on for several building seasons as crews wait for each stage of the building to be completed before the next stage can begin.

Each delay or complication adds cost to an already expensive process, increasing the final home or apartment’s price tag and making it difficult for local families to afford a new home.

That entire building process is being re-imagined. Builders can now construct parts of a project in a factory and assemble them on-site to shorten the building process and reduce costs, sometimes dramatically.

This new building method is called modular construction and its popularity is growing rapidly.

Modular housing should not be confused with manufactured housing. Manufactured housing is subject to federal guidelines while modular housing has to comply with state and local housing requirements such as snowload building standards.

In modular construction the pieces of the building are constructed in a controlled factory environment, reducing construction costs by as much as 15-20 percent or more. While there is still site work to be done to combine the modular pieces into a completed project — set them on the foundation and complete finish work — this construction method streamlines the process significantly.

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North Tahoe-Truckee has seen a number of modular housing projects including the Hopkins Village project in the Martis Valley. Hopkins Village was built by Craftsman Homes based in Sparks, Nevada. The pieces of the project were trucked in during the winter, dropped onto the foundations, and then the roofs were craned into place.

That process took weeks instead of months, especially in the middle of winter,” said Lori Young, sales manager for the homebuilder.

The handsome townhomes now sit occupied in the Martis Valley, an example of how the construction phase of a project can move swiftly even during difficult building conditions.

“The affordability and the build time — those are the two [advantages to modular housing]. People can’t wait for two years for a contractor to build them a home,” said Young.

As North Tahoe-Truckee seeks more ways to expedite achievable local housing solutions, we will continue to see modular housing methods become key to getting more of our local families in homes they can afford.