By Nadine Ono.
The Town of Truckee this week took a step forward in providing more affordable housing inside its city center when the Town Council unanimously voted to approve the Truckee Artists Lofts, committing to fund the project with a $1.3 million low-interest deferred loan.
The project will be the first phase of the town’s Railyard Master Plan Development, which will transform a former mill site adjacent to downtown into housing, services, retail and entertainment.
“This action by the Town Council culminates 20 years of community advocacy and planning for this project with the approval of the first building that will launch the development of this brownfield site,” said Truckee Town Manager Tony Lashbrook. “Equally important is the fact that the Artist Lofts project is primarily dedicated to providing housing for lower income families which is a key priority in our community right now. I am really excited to see this project, along with the rest of phase one of the Railyard break ground.”
The Railyard Master Plan has been on the books since 2009, but has been stalled for various reasons, including the economic downtown and the loss of redevelopment funds.
The project is a mixed-used project with 77 apartments, 66 of which will be designated for affordable housing for residents who make between 30 and 60 percent of the area’s median income. It will also include retail space on the first floor, a community center and a rooftop terrace. CFY Development, Inc., an affordable housing developer, is partnering with Holliday Development, which is overseeing the Railyard Master Plan.
“There’s a unique energy in downtown that we have the opportunity to build on with the Railyard project,” said CFY Development, Inc.’s Ali Youssefi.
Affordable housing in Truckee is not only an issue with low-income workers who live in the area, but middle-income workers and professionals as well. More than half of the homes in the region are owned as second or vacation homes, pricing some locals out of the market. And that makes it even harder for a large portion of those employed in region’s tourism and service industry to afford to live in the area. The Tahoe Truckee Community Foundation is in the middle of creating a regional housing study and a workforce housing study to determine the extent of the problem.
According to Lashbook, the Artist Lofts will fill the needs of some of those workers: “The Truckee area has a deep and well-documented need for workforce/locals housing as we like to call it. And that ranges to all kind of income levels from the service workers that might be in the lower-income bracket to professional-level school teachers, policemen, firefighters, etc. that have a very difficult time competing price-wise in our for-purchase housing market locally.”
Another bonus for the new residents will be their proximity to transit, both local and regional. “Our transit hub is located in downtown Truckee–that’s a regional hub, as is the Amtrak train station,” said Lashbrook. “So this should be one of those opportunities to actually live and work in an area that could be transit-served. These opportunities are few and far between in this region right now.”
Another differentiating feature to the lofts is that, although it is open to residents of all professions, it will be geared toward the creative community and will include live/work space, conducive for artists. Youssefi said the area is great fit for artist lofts because, “Truckee is an incredibly creative and artistically talented community.” He envisions this development to be similar to the Warehouse Artist Lofts in Sacramento (also a CFY Development property), which includes performance and gallery space. He added that creating space for artists that are also affordable will help avoid the “SoHo Effect,” in which artists are priced out of their neighborhood once it becomes popular.
The next step for the project is applying for the State of California Low Income Housing Tax Credit by the end of this June. If the tax credit is granted, ground will be broken on the Artist Lofts in spring 2017 and construction should be completed in the second half of 2018.
Creating affordable housing for the local workforce is vital to any local economy and an important aspect of the California Economic Summit’s goal of creating one million housing units in the next decade. The Truckee development is one example of how a local government can work to provide housing for its workforce, while creating a vibrant community environment at the same time.
“To the credit of the Holiday Development and the Town of Truckee, the plan for the neighborhood is pretty special and is going to create a unique destination for the entire region,” said Youssefi. “So we’re fortunate to be playing a small role in that vision and that’s by creating this mixed- income, mixed-use community.”