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.


Our Community’s Future Depends on Housing

Tahoe Truckee Community Foundation

Tahoe Truckee Community Foundation CEO Stacy Caldwell, who leads the Mountain Housing Council, recently penned an opinion piece for Moonshine Ink about the regional housing crisis. Read on to see her thoughts on how it will take the involvement of our entire community to solve our housing issues.


At a recent Placer County Board of Supervisors meeting, after delivering a presentation on housing, I sat down and listened to a parade of speakers tell their own stories of the housing crisis.

Sean Barclay, general manager of the Tahoe City Public Utility District got up and talked about not being able to live in the community he serves.

“We got tired of chasing rentals, and moved to Reno,” said Barclay.

JT Chevalier, executive director of the Tahoe City Downtown Association, wondered how long he’d be able to survive in the area.

“I am a 31-year-old and I want to own a house here,” said Chevalier. But after years of seeing skyrocketing prices and shrinking housing options, he said, “Honestly, it is a pretty bleak future.”

And then there was Alex Mourelatos of Mourelatos Lakeshore Resort challenging the audience and county supervisors to look around at the young professionals in the room, and to “be prepared to say goodbye to them in four years” because they “won’t be here because they can’t live here.”

I’ve been immersed in housing issues for the past two years. But that meeting hammered home what we all know — housing is everything. 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.

In the room and behind the scenes are the partners and leaders of the Mountain Housing Council. Twenty-nine organizations — public agencies, home owners associations, and corporations — have banded together to accelerate “achievable local housing” solutions. They have committed their top leadership ranks to the group and are dedicating resources to consider policy, land, and funding toward potential solutions. Together, we are collaborating, facilitating, and engaging each other and the community. We’ve crisscrossed the community giving presentations, advocating for funding, and developing solutions and strategy. At times, we are overwhelmed by the scale of the problem, but more often we are inspired by the community support.

In our first year, we celebrate real results. Together we have helped a handful of developments move forward by working together, thinking creatively, advocating for funding, and educating our community. With 342 new units moving forward and more than $40 million in financial capital attracted to support those efforts, we are on our way. Yet, still more is needed, and it is never fast enough.

Read the rest of the article at http://www.moonshineink.com/opinion/our-community%E2%80%99s-future-depends-housing

Shipping Containers Become Truckee’s Newest Local Housing Solution

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.


Placer County Board of Supervisors Initiates Purchase of Dollar Hill Property for Local Housing Project, Truckee Tahoe Airport District Pledges $500,000

The 11.4-acre parcel outside of Tahoe City represents one of the best opportunities to directly address North Tahoe’s severe housing crisis

KINGS BEACH, Calif. (July 26, 2018) — Following an overwhelming display of community support, the Placer County Board of Supervisors voted to initiate an option to purchase an 11.4-acre parcel in the Dollar Hill area of Tahoe City to pursue a housing project.

The Truckee Tahoe Airport District subsequently pledged $500,000 to support the project at their board meeting, setting in motion a project that could deliver much needed achievable local housing to a community that is in the grips of a severe housing crisis.

The Placer County Supervisors’ unanimous vote of approval came at a July 24 meeting in Kings Beach. The Airport District’s pledge of financial support came at their July 25 meeting in Truckee.

The wide array of support for the project — from business owners, Dollar Hill residents, special districts and community figures — showed how seriously the community takes the deepening housing shortage and highlights the efforts of the Mountain Housing Council of Tahoe Truckee and its 29 regional partners that are focusing on local housing solutions.

“Seeing the community rally around this local housing project shows that our region can and will work together to solve the housing crisis. The Nahas Project represents our potential to actively secure achievable local housing that will ensure a full-time community to protect and steward this beautiful place for generations to come,” said Stacy Caldwell, CEO of the Tahoe Truckee Community Foundation, which leads the Mountain Housing Council effort.

The supervisors’ support for the project means that county staff will now begin negotiating the option on the $3.6 million purchase.

“There is no question in anyone’s mind that without having adequate housing for our community, none of us will be able to have businesses here,” said District 5 Supervisor Jennifer Montgomery, acknowledging concerns expressed by several business owners that the housing crisis is hurting their ability to hire and retain employees. “This piece of property is perfect for the kind of achievable, local housing we envision.”

The Truckee Tahoe Airport District Board of Directors voted to support the project with a contribution of $500,000. The Board described the pressing issues facing our local community and stressed their commitment of support throughout the project timeline.

“The Truckee Tahoe Airport District’s commitment to the community it serves goes well beyond aviation services,” said Rick Stephens, president of the Truckee Tahoe Airport Board. “Our board voted unanimously to dedicate funding to a project that will address a housing crisis that is impacting our district and the businesses and community members we serve.”

Cindy Gustafson, CEO of the North Lake Tahoe Resort Association, said housing has become a top priority for North Tahoe businesses.

“The North Lake Tahoe business community is very involved in the Mountain Housing Council and strongly supports solutions that address the broad spectrum of achievable local housing needs. All types and sizes of businesses believe that workforce housing is a critical issue,” said Gustafson.

The property is located at the intersection of Fabian Way and Highway 28, two miles from Tahoe City’s downtown and six miles from Kings Beach. With its proximity to public transit, trailheads and schools, it is an ideal location for achievable local housing.

Before releasing a Request for Proposals to developers, Placer County and the Mountain Housing Council will co-host a gathering to seek community input.

On Aug. 1 Placer County and the Mountain Housing Council’s community meeting in Tahoe City will seek input on all elements of the project, and will include that feedback in its RFP for developers. The meeting will be held from 3-5 p.m. at the Tahoe City Public Utility District Board Room at 221 Fairway Drive.

There will also be a discussion of the project at the Aug. 9 North Tahoe Regional Municipal Advisory Council meeting.

The Mountain Housing Council is comprised of 29 committed stakeholders to take on the unique and pressing challenges of housing in the North Tahoe-Truckee region. 

Truckee Residents Purchase River Redevelopment Site for Local Housing Needs

Local group takes big step towards building their own community designed for full-time residents while sparking a revitalization of the downtown river core.

TRUCKEE, CA, July 16, 2018 – Sunday, a group of full-time Truckee residents gathered to celebrate the purchase of a unique 7.9 acre industrial redevelopment property on West River Street and the future site of their cohousing neighborhood, a community designed and financed by local residents.

The Truckee Cohousing group, comprised of approximately 20 member families, has been meeting regularly since mid 2017 and recently formed as Truckee River Commons, LLC.

Julia and Lorenzo Worster, both teachers in Truckee schools, sparked the most recent effort to establish cohousing in Truckee after experiencing a brief residency at Nevada City Cohousing. “Living in a tight-knit community with multiple generations made it easier and more joyful to raise two young children while balancing two careers,” states Julia.

Even with two full-time salaries in the local school district the Worsters found it difficult to finance and compete for local housing. Creating cohousing with small homes and shared neighborhood resources seemed to be a path towards living more sustainably and becoming homeowners in Truckee’s competitive, high-priced housing market.

The cohousing group has leveraged the resources of the recently formed the Mountain Housing Council of Tahoe Truckee, a project of the Tahoe Truckee Community Foundation, by using the research and definitions provided by the Mountain Housing Council to establish the goal of developing one third of the neighborhood to qualify as achievable local housing for Truckee residents earning up to 170% of the area median income (AMI). “Our goal is to provide a great place to live for families who work in Truckee,” comments Swenja Ziegler, the Affordability Team Lead.

“Additionally, the Mountain Housing Council has introduced the project to investors which is exceptionally helpful,” states Jan Holan, Project Lead.

“Cohousing is a fantastic model for our region and we hope to see more locally-sourced solutions like this in the future. This project delivers in so many ways: units for achievable local housing, centrally located housing, and improved river access. We’re thrilled to welcome this innovative solution of community-focused housing to our region,” said Stacy Caldwell, CEO of Tahoe Truckee Community Foundation.

Cohousing is an international model based on the idea of creating an intentional community of private homes designed by its future residents. Fully equipped dwellings complete with all the expected amenities surround a shared common house and green space. The common house with its large kitchen and dining area, creates an excellent place to gather for shared meals and special events. It serves as the community “living room,” with clustered mailboxes, laundry facilities, and play spaces for kids and grownups.

Many cohousing neighborhoods are designed to keep cars to the periphery, which promotes friendly exchanges with neighbors and creates safe, car-free spaces for children to play.

Truckee Cohousing’s Site Team conducted an exhaustive search of all the potential sites within walking distance of downtown Truckee to lower the impact and use of cars. “Other site considerations included excellent sun exposure for energy efficiency and accessibility to trails and nature. Being able to jump in the Truckee River was a bonus,” said John Stanec, Site Team Member and physician at Tahoe Forest Hospital.

The working title of the development is Truckee River Village. In addition to the cohousing neighborhood, the groups envision includes creating a public plaza, park and trail and replacing the non-conforming industrial uses with housing above ground floor commercial. The plan is aligned with the Town of Truckee’s Downtown River Revitalization Plan adopted in 2005.

Holan is collaborating with local businesses and entrepreneurs to further develop the vision of the future commercial uses. Some examples of uses considered are a riverfront cafe, collaborative health and wellness center, coworking space, adventure center, and child care. “Our goal is to develop commercial uses to support the new neighborhood that locals and visitors can enjoy while minimizing the need to get in the car,” says Jan Holan, Project Lead.

Prior to closing on the property last Thursday, the cohousing group has been engaged in impromptu work parties to clean up the site. The group has hauled off three large dumpsters and about 100 yards of junk and trash off of the site. “It’s one of the benefits of having a group of engaged citizens investing in the property,” says Holan. Additionally, with the help of the Town of Truckee, dozens of abandoned cars have been taken off the property in recent months.

Regular site tours and meetings are being held for potential homebuyers and investors to find out more about cohousing and plans to make our river a more accessible feature of our town. See www.truckeecohousing.com or email truckeecohousing@gmail.com for more information.