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.


January Housing Wins

The Mountain Housing Council of Tahoe Truckee, Town of Truckee and Placer County took significant steps toward housing solutions at the beginning of 2018.

The Mountain Housing Council, comprised of 25 local agencies, nonprofits, and businesses, unanimously passed policy recommendation to adopt a new definition on Jan. 12 for achievable local housing, which goes beyond traditional affordable housing definitions to include those income levels that are unable to afford housing in the region.

“This is an important step forward in addressing the real needs in the North Tahoe-Truckee region,” said Stacy Caldwell, Chief Executive Officer of the Tahoe Truckee Community Foundation, which facilitates the council. “This will help address the critical needs of low income residents, as well as those households in our region who find themselves in the middle income brackets – the teachers, police, firefighters, and young professionals that still can’t afford housing here.”

It will be up to each individual agency to decide if and how to implement this new policy recommendation for an expanded definition of affordability.

Additionally, both Placer County’s Board of Supervisors and Truckee’s Town Council approved a memorandum of understanding Jan. 9 with Neighborhood Partners LLC in support of $16 million in state Cap and Trade grant funding (Affordable Housing and Sustainable Communities Program) for the already approved 56-unit affordable housing project called Meadow View Place in Schaffer’s Mill.

“This decision shows a real commitment to work together and to further transportation and housing,” said Luke Watkins of Neighborhood Partners LLC. “This is a great partnership with the town and county, and the Mountain Housing Council should be thanked for facilitating it.”

If the project is awarded the grant, the project could break ground as soon as spring of 2019, Watkins said.

Also on Jan. 9, Truckee Town Council passed its annual update to traffic impact fees and facilities fees charged to new development, changing the fee structure to a per-square-foot basis, rather than per-unit basis.

“The primary goal of this change is to incentivize smaller unit types,” said Town Manager Jeff Loux. “We recognize that this may seem like a small change, but we believe it is actually a pretty significant move, and we hope other agencies will follow.”

The Contractors Association of Truckee Tahoe, which had initial concerns with technical aspects of the change, strongly supported the update after working with town staff.

“I have to give a lot of credit to town staff for really being on top of it and giving this high priority,” said Pat Davison, Government Affairs Manager for the Contractors Association. “We hope this does turn into some actual housing on the ground.”




Moonshine Ink: Families on the Brink

Photo by Jeremy Jensen/Moonshine Ink.

Local newspaper Moonshine Ink recently published a poignant story by David Bunker on the challenges long-time locals are facing in one of the Tahoe-Truckee Region’s many mobile home parks. Read the article here.

There are close to 1,000 mobile homes in the North-Tahoe Truckee Region, and they are a critical piece of the achievable local housing landscape, necessary to serve the diverse needs of our residents. Each mobile home park is different in who they serve and who owns them.

The Mountain Housing Council of Tahoe Truckee has created an Ad-Hoc team to work on the specific issues of mobile homes as they pertain to achievable housing. If you have insight, input or are interested in joining the committee, please contact us here.

Ski Area Solutions for Housing: Tiny Homes Campground Project

Housing Inspiration Webinar #1

Aspen Ski Company’s Philip Jeffreys presented on an innovative project with 40 tiny homes in a campground housing 102 seasonal employees at a November webinar.

Jeffreys detailed the thought housing issues that Aspen is facing, the thought process they went through in addressing employee housing, the hurtles, challenges and solutions. Roughly 30 attendees of the webinar, including Tahoe-Truckee ski area representatives, US Forest Service representatives, agency staff, elected officials and others tuned in live, asking questions addressed by Jeffreys at the end of the presentation.

Watch a video replay of the webinar here:

Click here for a background video on the project.

Sign up for Mountain Housing Council’s email list below to be notified of future webinars and meetings like this one.

Join Mountain Housing Council for a Think Tank Oct. 25

The Mountain Housing Council of Tahoe Truckee invites you to A Public Think Tank: Employer Solutions, to learn what employers and agencies both inside the region and from elsewhere are doing to address housing problems and retain employees – and to offer ideas of your own.

When: October 25, 6 – 8 p.m.
Where: North Tahoe Event Center, Kings Beach

The evening will include a panel discussion on how the housing crisis affects our local economy, speakers sharing ready-to-implement solutions for employers, an open Solutions Slam for community members to share their own ideas and a networking session.

Speakers on the panel include:

Panel Facilitator: Kristin York, Sierra Business Council
Kristin is Vice President of Business Innovation for Sierra Business Council. Kristin leverages 20 years of experience in strategic planning, finance, operations, marketing, and business transformation to assist businesses thrive economically while understanding their environmental and social impact. At SBC, Kristin directs the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) as well as the Gold Country Broadband Consortium and the Sierra Economic Development District.
Kristin is also a Professor of Sustainable Business at Presidio Graduate School, Board Chair for the Truckee Donner Parks and Recreation District, and serves as a Board member for the Tahoe Food Hub and the Truckee Tahoe Community Foundation.

Panelist: Joy Doyle, North Tahoe Business Association
Joy has been the Executive Director of the North Tahoe Business Association (NTBA) since September 2011. Under Joy’s leadership, NTBA’s membership, sponsorships, partnerships, and events have significantly grown and the main commercial core of NTBA’s District, Kings Beach, has prospered. Prior to joining NTBA, Joy worked in marketing and events in the ski, travel/tourism, and outdoor industries. Joy has lived in Carnelian Bay since 1990 and is passionate about North Lake Tahoe.

Panelist: Cindy Gustafson, North Lake Tahoe Resort Association
Cindy recently joined the North Lake Tahoe Resort Association as CEO. Previously, Cindy served as the General Manager at the Tahoe County Public Utility District, at which she maintained a storied and successful career for 26 years. Among the many roles Gustafson has played in serving the North Lake Tahoe community, key highlights include: five years spent as a Governor’s appointment on a State Commission; six years served as a member of the Placer County Transportation Planning Agency Board of Directors; founding board member of Excellence in Education; five years served as a member of the Truckee Tahoe School Board of Trustees; founding Chairperson of the Tahoe Fund; and two years on the Lake Tahoe Basin Federal Advisory committee.

Panelist: Lynn Saunders, Truckee Chamber of Commerce
Lynn Saunders has served as the President/CEO of the Truckee Chamber of Commerce since 2002. Lynn oversees all Chamber programs for the business community and their 640 members, is a key leader in the Truckee Tomorrow collaborative economic development initiative, and oversees the management and operation of the Truckee California Welcome Center in the historic train depot downtown.
The Chamber recognizes the far-reaching impacts the housing situation is having on business and the community. That it’s making it: making it difficult for employers to attract and retain employees; having a negative impact on businesses bottom line; is a significant hurdle to businesses that might be thinking of moving here; and that it’s creating quality of life issues for Truckee.

Presenter: Kay Hartman, Mammoth Community Water District
Kay is the Human Resources Manager for Mammoth Community Water District. Kay has over 36 years of experience in all aspects of public sector personnel. She has extensive experience in public sector budget development and administration, and strategic planning that includes performance measures laying a course for sound personnel and management business practices. Presently, Kay administers and manages District-owned employee housing. Originally from South Dakota, Kay relocated to California to earn her degree from California State University, Fresno, and has remained in California since.

Presenter: Donald Terry, NeighborWorks Home Ownership Center, Sacramento Region
Donald serves as the Director of Real Estate Development for NeighborWorks Home Ownership Center, Sacramento Region, where he oversees single-family for sale affordable housing development in an 11-county region in Northern California. In addition, he manages the organization’s in-house realty services team and the Community Housing Services Department that contracts with multiple cities and counties to administer Community Development Block Grant (CDBG), HOME, and CalHome programs. Donald is also a local elected official first serving on the Sacramento City School Board from 2008 to 2012 and in 2012 elected to the Rancho Cordova City Council and is currently serving as Mayor.

Presenter: Jaime Wright, Truckee North Tahoe Transportation Management Association
Jaime is the Executive Director of the Truckee North Tahoe Transportation Management Association (TNT-TMA) and has worked locally within Truckee and North Lake Tahoe both in private and public transit since 1999. Growing up in Truckee and North Lake Tahoe, mobility has always sparked an interest, motivating Jaime to continue her education and work experience with the field of transportation. Jaime began her career in the public sector working for Squaw Creek Transportation and then joined the TNT-TMA as the Program Manager in 2008, becoming the Executive Director of the TNT-TMA in 2013

Along with hearing from the panel, members of the public are encouraged to share their ideas both as part of the open Solutions Slam or in smaller groups as part of a networking portion of the meeting.

Click here to see what some local employers are already doing to make a difference