$15M remodel underway on South Lake Tahoe affordable housing complex

$15M remodel underway on South Lake Tahoe affordable housing complex

A South Lake Tahoe affordable housing complex is currently undergoing a $15-million renovation.

Sierra Garden Apartments, located at 1801 Lake Tahoe Blvd., is jointly owned by Pacific Development Group, a Lodi-based affordable housing developer, and St. Joseph Community Land Trust, a local nonprofit.

St. Joseph Community Land Trust was established in 2002 “in response to the rising housing costs and the negative impacts of these costs to the broad social fabric, well-being, and sustainability of communities around Lake Tahoe,” according to the organization. The faith-based membership organization acquires real estate and develops housing programs to assist those who might not otherwise be able to afford a home in the basin. The funds are raised through membership fees, donations, tax credits and grants.

St. Joseph Community Land Trust became an owner of the 76-unit affordable housing complex in 2004, at which time a few upgrades were made to the apartments.

“The reason that we were brought into it back in 2004 is that the deed restriction for the affordability was expiring,” said Cathy Kope, executive director for the land trust. “We were instrumental in keeping those 76 units at an affordable rent as opposed as going to market rate which could have very well happened.”

Now the land trust has raised $15 million through Low-Income Housing Tax Credits and tax-exempt bonds to remodel the units, including improvements to kitchens, bathrooms, floor coverings, fresh paint, new wall heaters and LED lighting fixtures. Eight of the units will become 100-percent ADA accessible.

Construction will continue into 2018 with the creation of a new resident activity center with computer stations, drought-resistant landscaping and new BBQ areas.

“It is the mission of St. Joseph Community Land Trust to provide quality and affordable housing for the community,” said Lyn Barnett, St. Joseph Community Land Trust board president. “This project improves the living conditions of the residents and the new activity center and common areas will help create a greater sense of community.”

Sierra Garden Apartments is not the only way the land trust is working to create more affordable housing.

Back in 2004, St. Joseph Community Land Trust took a parcel donated by the city of South Lake Tahoe and built a three-bedroom, deed-restricted home for a moderate-income family.

“What the community land trust model does with the program we have right now, it keeps the housing affordable by taking the land out of the purchase price,” explained Kope. “At the time of that sale, the unimproved land was appraised at $140,000 and by taking that out of the purchase price we were able to sell that house in Al Tahoe for just under $270,000. So the land trust maintains title to just the land and then the home buyer leases the land from us by paying a monthly ground lease fee to the land trust.”

If the house goes on the market, it must be sold to another moderate-income family.

Currently the land trust is growing its housing fund in order to purchase and rehabilitate another property in the Tahoe Basin. The organization is also looking into a “homeowner initiated program.”

“That’s a program where a home buyer can come in and select a home that they want in a neighborhood of their choosing and the land trust could possibly come in with public-private partnerships to purchase the land and then that would come out of the purchase price as far as what the buyer has to come up with,” explained Kope.

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