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In The News – The surprising way California’s home insurance crisis is affecting Tahoe

June 16, 2024 | Member Submitted

By Michael Cabanatuan, Reporter San Francisco Chronicle, June 16, 2024 – Submitted by IVCBA MemberPhoto Credit SF Chronicle

Not long ago, homeowners on the California and Nevada sides of Lake Tahoe faced vastly different

realities when it came to buying insurance on their Sierra Nevada homes.

In California, prices soared even as insurers pulled back, refusing to write new policies or renew existing policies for many customers. Right across the state line in Nevada, homeowners enjoyed lower rates in a more competitive market.

But those days are gone, say Nevada’s division of insurance, insurance brokers and real estate agents.

In woodsy shoreline communities like Incline Village and Stateline on the Nevada side of scenic Lake Tahoe, increasing numbers of homeowners are facing insurance nonrenewals and soaring premiums — and few if any insurers willing to write new policies.

“It has definitely crossed the state line,” said Denise Bremer, head of the Incline Village Association of Realtors, which is seeing the crisis spread and affect home sales. “I sell on both sides and it started in California a few years ago, but in the past year we’ve seen it creep over to the Nevada side. It’s become a lot more common for single-family homeowners to get nonrenewals.”

Todd Rich, chief deputy commissioner of the Nevada Division of Insurance, said the state is “seeing an uptick in carriers non-renewing homeowners’ insurance, mostly due to wildfire risk in Northern Nevada.”

Nonrenewals and unaffordable price hikes on either side of the state line leave homeowners and potential buyers in a quandary. Without insurance, they’re unable to get or keep home loans, and could potentially default on their mortgages or have to give up on buying a home.

Californians are left with three choices — get costly coverage from an unregulated insurer; sign up for the pricey FAIR Plan, the “insurer of last resort” in the state for wildfire risk; or “go bare,” forgoing insurance and taking their chances, said Steve Young, senior vice president and general counsel for the Independent Insurance Agents and Brokers of California.

FAIR Plan makes a difference

But Nevada consumers are missing one of those options. The state lacks a FAIR Plan, something offered not only by California but about 30 other states and the District of Columbia. (States, not the federal government, oversee property insurance, so regulations vary considerably from state to state.)

Scott Menath, president of the Nevada Independent Insurance Agents, runs Menath Insurance Agency, which sells insurance on both sides of the California-Nevada line. On the surface, he said, the situation in Nevada appears to be “slightly better,” with some insurers — like State Farm, which has announced nonrenewals of fire insurance coverage throughout California — still selling homeowners policies on the Nevada side of the lake.

But overall, he said, California is better off, because it has the FAIR Plan. The privately run, state-created program allows homeowners to get wildfire insurance even if they cannot find it elsewhere — an increasingly common scenario in large swaths of wildfire-prone territory throughout the state.

“The lack of a FAIR Plan is a problem,” Menath said. “California from a consumer standpoint offers more options.”

Menath said he “absolutely” supports the creation of a FAIR Plan or perhaps a type of program in which Nevada consumers unable to get insurance are randomly assigned to different insurance companies.

California’s FAIR Plan offers limited coverage at higher costs and has been overwhelmed with new customers. Insurance industry experts fear it could be oversubscribed and unable to pay out claims in the event of a massive wildfire. In that case, insurance companies would have to cover the excess based on the share of policies they hold statewide.

“They fear there will be a catastrophic loss and there will be an assessment,” said Haley Andrews, vice president of Gaines Insurance Agency in El Dorado Hills near Sacramento, which sells policies to a lot of Tahoe Basin residents.

“For a lot of companies that’s a big scary question mark. It’s why you’re seeing a lot of companies withdrawing” and not renewing policies, in an effort to reduce their risk in the event of one or more huge wildfires, she said.

As in California, Nevada homeowners who receive nonrenewal notices face often frustrating hunts to find affordable replacement coverage.

Chris Plastiras, an Incline Village resident and owner of Lakeshore Realty, recently received an insurance nonrenewal notice. He owns eight properties in the area — two commercial, four investment, his real estate office and his home — and initially feared the notice applied to all, but was momentarily relieved to find out he was losing coverage only at his home.

He found one other insurer willing to pick him up — for a 300% increase. He’s still looking.

Bremer said increases of 200% to 300% are common. Properties deemed to be at particularly high risk can go even higher, Menath said.

“Yes, you can probably find (replacement) insurance, but it’s going to cost you,” Plastiras said.
Some insurers are offering policies to new customers but putting caps on payouts or requiring unusually high deductibles on losses, he said. Others are saying they’ll cover only 50% of a customer’s loss.

“It’s causing some people to sell their properties” because they don’t want to take the risk or can’t afford the higher costs, he said.

Crisis affecting housing market

Plastiras, who has sold real estate in the area for 45 years, said the insurance crisis is already beginning to affect the housing market.

“We are seeing some values declining due to insurance risk, a decrease in the pricing structure,” he said. “We’re kind of in our infancy as far as where this lands.”

Ricardo Lara, California’s insurance commissioner, recently said that the insurance crisis is having a “devastating” impact on the real estate market in the state.
While the surge of nonrenewals is hitting owners of single-family residences hard, the impact is even worse on homeowners associations for condominiums and townhouses on the Nevada side of Tahoe, Bremer and Plastiras said. Some are finding it nearly impossible to find new policies, and others have had to double or triple their monthly HOA fees to cover the costs.

While the home insurance crisis is hitting the Lake Tahoe area — long deemed an area at risk of wildfire — particularly hard now, it’s starting to spread through Nevada, she said.

“I’m hearing from colleagues that it’s in Battle Mountain, it’s in Vegas, it’s in Elko,” she said. “It’s creeping down to the Washoe Valley now. It’s not just the border. It’s a statewide issue now.”

Rich, in the state insurance division, said Nevada regulators are aware of the issues and have been consulting with regulators in other Western states, fire professionals and state and federal legislators to try to come up with solutions. The division is examining the FAIR plans, which vary by state, in California, Oregon, Colorado and Washington.

‘Clearly a national issue’

“This is clearly a national issue, and now Nevada is feeling the impact; however, we are not in the same position as California,” where the crisis is deeper and more widespread, he said.

Mark Friedlander, a spokesperson for the Insurance Information Institute, a national trade organization, said the problem is surfacing in various regions of the country. He blamed five factors: people hiring attorneys who are quick to sue instead of settle; inflation in home reconstruction costs; an increasing number of people moving into areas susceptible to wildfires, hurricanes and tornadoes; a “challenging” regulatory environment in many states; and concerns about risk exposure.

“Some insurers have pulled back on certain markets to rebalance their risk exposure so they don’t carry too much risk in one area,” he said.

Some Nevada organizations hope their Legislature manages to deal with the situation before the end of the year. But the state’s lawmakers convene only every other year, and this is an off-year. Any action on insurance, including the state’s own FAIR plan, would require waiting — or a special session.

A town hall meeting with state and local officials and residents is scheduled for June 28 in Incline Village to discuss the home insurance issue, according to Nevada Assemblywoman Heidi Kasama, R-Las Vegas, who has held hearings on the topic.

“I am deeply concerned for the challenges our property owners are experiencing,” she wrote in an email to the Chronicle. “However, I would also be cautious about government intervention in the private marketplace.”

While Nevada struggles to handle the insurance crisis, which some hoped wouldn’t cross the California state line, industry professionals are cautioning others in the West.

“We’re trying to warn other states — Colorado, Utah, Arizona,” Bremer said. “Hey, it’s coming for you.”

Reach Michael Cabanatuan: mcabanatuan@sfchronicle.com;

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Join the Conversation on Workforce Housing in Incline Village and Crystal Bay

March 27, 2024 | Member Submitted

Submitted by IVCBA Community Engagement Liaison, Jonathon Gardner

The Incline Village Crystal Bay Community & Business Association (IVCBA) and United for Action invite you to engage in shaping Washoe Tahoe workforce housing solutions in 2024. 

We are creating a speaker series that will discuss vital topics like ADUs, financing, and public-private partnerships to address our housing needs.  Your input is crucial to identify preferred topics, meeting durations, and times.  This collaborative effort aims to explore and implement effective housing strategies for our community that were developed by our community.  Join us by sharing your perspectives through our survey, and help us create inclusive solutions for all residents.  Your participation is key to our success.  

PLEASE TAKE SURVEY & SHARE >

SURVEY >

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In The News – Tahoe Regional Planning Agency Committee advances affordable housing policies to Dec. Governing Board meeting

November 20, 2023 | Member Submitted

Originally Published in The Tahoe Daily Tribune 11/20/2023, Submitted

Updates on Aquatic Invasive Species and Destination Stewardship also presented 

LAKE TAHOE, Calif./Nev. – The Tahoe Regional Planning Agency (TRPA) Governing Board Regional Planning Committee advanced policy changes on Wednesday designed to help create more affordable housing in the Tahoe Region. Following nearly two years of stakeholder and public input, the proposed housing amendments will now go before the full Governing Board for consideration at its December 13 meeting.­­­

“The disparity between housing cost and affordability for local workers impacts Lake Tahoe’s environment and the fabric of our communities,” said TRPA Executive Director Julie Regan. “This crisis is affecting resort towns around the country and maintaining the status quo in workforce housing options is not acceptable.” 

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In The News – Washoe County Commissioners raise STR fees, discuss work to be done for the program

September 6, 2023 | Miranda Jacobson

Originally Published in the Tahoe Daily Tribune 8/31/2023, Written by Miranda Jacobson

INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev.— The Washoe County Board of Commissioners voted to increase fees related to short-term rentals in the county after it was revealed that Washoe County tax payers are currently subsidizing the STR program. 

Standards and regulations were established for STRs in the county in 2021 after a two-plus year public interaction process. These standards address quality of life impacts, occupancy, safety, and other aspects of STRs that seemed to cause problems in local communities. 

The initial fees that were set were based on future projections and “guesstimates,” leading to the expectation that staff would need to reassess the fees after the program was established. Issues that were identified with the program currently include the program being understaffed, meaning it does not operate at maximum efficiency, leading to delays in processing and responses. Additionally, Planning and Building Division Director Kelly Mullen explained during her presentation that general taxpayer dollars have been heavily subsidizing the STR program. 

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In The News – Affordable Housing in Incline Village sees progress with Acknowledgment of road map

July 15, 2023 | Member Submitted

Originally published in the Tahoe Daily Tribune 07/15/2023, Staff Report

INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev.— The 2023 Washoe Tahoe Housing Partnership’s Housing Roadmap was officially acknowledge by the Washoe County Board of Commissioners at their meeting Tuesday, July 11. 

The roadmap was presented by Tahoe Prosperity Center CEO Heidi Hill Drum, and outlines a partnership framework and range of priority goals and actions to address the needs of the community. 

The roadmap is aimed at finding collaborate ways that stakeholders in the community, ranging from government to non-profit agencies to business owners, can come together and find ways to create affordable and workforce housing in Incline Village and Crystal Bay. 

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In The News: Millions in transformative housing grants awarded to the Lake Tahoe Region

July 10, 2023 | Member Submitted

Originally published in the Tahoe Daily Tribune 07/10/2023, Submitted to Tribune

LAKE TAHOE, Calif./Nev.— Affordable housing in the Lake Tahoe region is getting a boost due to a $2.4 million from the California Department of Housing and Community Development awarded to the bi-state Tahoe Regional Planning Agency. 

With the assistance of regional government partners, the funding will help make housing, equity, and climate goals a central focus of land use and water quality programs, according to the TRPA. 

As the federally designated Metropolitan Planning Organization for the basin, TRPA was also awarded a $567,000 grant through a related California program to advance housing choices, reduce vehicle miles traveled, and build upon the region’s sustainable communities strategy, a key transportation policy document. 

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In The News: TRPA approves amendment to area plan with serious mitigations, approve extension of beach shuttle

June 30, 2023 | Miranda Jacobson

Originally published in the Tahoe Daily Tribune 06/30/2023, Written by Miranda Jacobson

INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev.— Tahoe Regional Planning Agency governing board voted to approve the amendment to the Tahoe Area Plan in Incline Village’s Special Area 1, with serious mitigations to promote mixed-use development and achievable housing. 

At their meeting Wednesday, June 28, the governing board heard a presentation from TRPA’s senior planner Jacob Stock, who explained the background of the need for an amendment before getting into the different mitigations that would be implemented. 

“Our goal for these mitigation measures was to really implement existing policy that’s already in the area plan,” said Stock. 

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Berkshire Hathaway Vendor Invite

June 9, 2023 | Member Submitted

YOU’RE INVITED!   Join us for a Home Repair/Improvement Fair

Your business is invited to participate in our upcoming Home Repair/Improvement Fair. The fair will be an excellent opportunity for you to showcase your services and connect with potential clients in Incline Village.  And there’s no cost to participate – bring yourself and a table/tent/chairs and set yourself up in our parking lot.

As a contractor, you play a vital role in providing homeowners with exceptional services and helping them repair and transform their houses into beautiful homes. Our Vendor Fair aims to bring together reputable contractors like yourself, along with homeowners seeking professional services for their home repair/improvement projects.

Here are some key benefits of participating in the Vendor Fair:

  • Networking Opportunities: Connect with homeowners actively seeking contractors and build valuable relationships with potential clients.
  • Brand Exposure: Showcase your services and expertise to a targeted audience, increasing your visibility in the local market.
  • Collaboration Opportunities: Engage with other industry professionals, fostering potential partnerships and collaborations for future projects.
  • Marketing and Promotion: Take advantage of our extensive marketing efforts to promote the Vendor Fair and drive attendance, reaching a wide range of potential clients.

To reserve your booth or if you have any questions, please contact Kris Pollack at 925-683-2420 or kris.pollack@bhhsdrysdale.com.  The deadline to sign up to participate is June 20.  We have limited booth spaces available, so we encourage you to confirm your participation as soon as possible.

We look forward to your participation hope to see you on June 29th!

Event Details: Date: Thursday, 6/29 Time: 4:30-6:30 Location: 907 Tahoe Blvd., Incline Village

Contact: Kris Pollack (Agent Concierge) Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Drysdale (925)-683-2420

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The Local Lens – Workforce Housing Updates 

May 30, 2023 | Linda Offerdahl

Workforce Housing is the single largest issue that afflicts our community, as well as being a crisis across the nation. It affects the viability of our local merchants and their ability to hire staff. We have seen problems keeping teachers and other professional workers, as well as service workers. With the high cost of fuel, commuting is often not a feasible option either. The toll this takes is both direct and indirect. We have all seen some of our favorite stores or restaurants close. Even owners of businesses have had to move to Reno or Carson. Indirectly, this results in a decline in the “Village vibe” that makes us all feel like one big happy family. 

Under the auspices of the Tahoe Prosperity Center, and funding primarily from Washoe County, the Washoe Tahoe Housing Partnership was formed. Three years ago, a housing study was conducted to quantify the need for housing in our region. Last summer, consultants were hired to formulate a roadmap. The Housing Partnership is comprised of key agencies including TRPA, Incline employers and local residents, selected for their interest or expertise in some aspect of the housing partnership. Committees are formed around housing programs, finance, community engagement, and development/redevelopment zoning and housing policies. 

The WTHP mission: Accelerate local housing solutions for those who live and work in Washoe Tahoe. 

The WTHP vision: A thriving vibrant community that has housing solutions to support our local residents, workforce and businesses.

The roadmap has a wealth of information, ideas, and recommendations; however, it is not an implementation plan. Now the hard work begins, determining the best solutions for Incline, together. What do we do next? 

LEARN ABOUT THE ROADMAP!

Go to Tahoepropserity.org and click on the Projects tab for the pulldown menu to find Washoe Tahoe Housing Partnership. You will find the roadmap here.

ATTEND THE CAB MEETING ON JUNE 5th

Commissioner Hill will be presenting the roadmap at this meeting of the Washoe County Citizen Advisory Board. Although you can attend in person at Incline Library, I recommend attending on Zoom. These meetings have a great format; there is a presentation, CAB members, all from our community ask questions and then open it up for public comment and questions. Join the meeting via Zoom at https://us06web.zoom.us/j/82231865379?pwd=TTF2M3FaSnR0bE9jQVA2Q1lJb2hqUT09 

SIGN THE PLEDGE TO SUPPORT HOUSING!

This is not a request for a donation. It says that you support the work being done to find housing solutions.  Commissioner Hill will ask the Board of Commissioners to approve the roadmap in July. Signing this pledge tells the commissioners that housing IS an important issue in our community, and we want to see Washoe County funding housing programs. 

Sign the pledge here.

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In The News: Incline, Crystal Bay receives roadmap for community housing solutions

May 30, 2023 | Member Submitted

Photo Credit: Washoe Tahoe Housing Partnership

Originally published with the Sierra Sun 05/25/2023.

INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev. — Every community member has experienced it as they move about daily life here in Tahoe – reduced days and hours at a favorite restaurant, help wanted signs in every store window, long lines at the grocery store and post office. 

What isn’t always obvious, is that those same impacts are affecting critical behind-the-scenes members of the workforce. Ninety-eight percent of Incline/Crystal Bay firefighters do not live here. The school district and hospital struggle to attract teachers, doctors and nurses who can live in the local community. Sixty-five percent of the workforce in Incline/Crystal Bay drives from outside the basin every day to get to work, clogging roads and filling limited available parking. The primary reason for it all is the lack of local housing available and affordable to a wide range of income levels.

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