When the Truckee group Landing Locals first went live in March 2019, the working hypothesis for the business seeking to address the housing crisis was that the local community didn’t struggle with a lack of homes; it struggled with a lack of the right type of homes available.
“The idea originally was we were going to be the Airbnb for local housing,” said Colin Frolich, cofounder of Landing Locals alongside his wife, Kai. “We were going to create the trusted platform that helped second homeowners and people with underutilized second homes and short-term rentals and such, convert them into long-term rentals and then be connected with local employees and businesses.”
The couple developed a matchmaking platform for two parties in need: one wanting housing; the other wanting to fill an empty space. Matched together, the two make a solution for how to keep members of the workforce in Truckee. A preference for local long-term renters became a requirement; then government got involved, and a marketable idea for vacation towns everywhere began to flourish.
Over the past two years, Landing Locals has been established in South Lake Tahoe, eastern Placer County, and Summit County, Colorado, flexibly catering to each of their markets. This month, Wood River Valley (Ketchum/Sun Valley), Idaho joins the list. Frolich said Landing Locals is in talks with roughly 40 other U.S. markets — places like Joshua Tree, California; Sedona, Arizona; Cape Cod, Massachusetts; and Booth Bay Harbor, Maine — and has plans to eventually grow its services.
Arguably the most critical stage of Landing Locals’ journey from 2019 to the fall of 2022 is its partnership with the Town of Truckee.
Nine months after its pilot, during which 15 properties were converted to long-term rentals and 30 people were housed, Landing Locals was approached by town staff eager to find and offer support in the vexing question of affordable housing. Seana Doherty, the town’s former housing program manager, worked with Landing Locals to craft policies around this type of housing program and add in government-backed incentives.
“That was the impetus for an experiment, which was: Landing Locals already has the platform and the connection between the homeowners and the renters, so what if this government public-private partnership helped accelerate that effort?” Frolich said.
The partnership launched in November 2020, known then as a long-term rental incentive program. Now known as Lease to Locals, it’s been modified three times, most recently this past summer. Frolich told Moonshine earlier this year that each update has increased incentive amounts for homeowners (from $3,000 to $10,000 to now $18,000) and added restrictions and compliance measures for both renters and property owners.
In another key move, the company recently hired a regional coordinator, Chase Janvrin, who previously worked as Tahoe housing manager for Tahoe Prosperity Center and has focused his career on real estate. While at Tahoe Prosperity, he helped Landing Locals navigate the South Lake market and fell in love with the model.
“I think Landing Locals is that really rare company that provides the necessary community service and benefit, but also has a tremendous amount of upside potential,” Janvrin said. He was hired as Landing Locals’ general manager for Tahoe in July, just before the Frolichs moved to Portland, Maine in mid-August.
Janvrin oversees the jurisdictional partnerships with Truckee, South Lake Tahoe, and eastern Placer County. “My focus will really be on expanding and improving our offerings,” he said.
It was after the 2019 six-month pilot that the Frolichs considered pushing the Landing Locals’ mission beyond the town it was born in. According to the National Association of Home Builders, 11.2% of counties in the U.S. have at least 20% or more of their housing stock as second homes (and half of the U.S.’s second homes are found in eight states, including California).
“We were pretty shocked about that,” Frolich said, “and we thought, okay, well, where are the places where it’s 20%, 30%, 40%, higher percentages [of second homes]? Let’s focus on those markets at least from an exploration of how big is the opportunity in terms of where we could potentially expand.”
In early 2020, Landing Locals served Big Sky, Montana and Telluride, Colorado, experimenting with local housing nonprofits to see if the matchmaking model would work. Frolich told the Ink that the trials were validating, revealing that such a method was, in fact, needed in other places with similar makeups to Truckee — “a lot of empty second homes and a lot of people looking for housing.”
Nowadays, the business receives regular queries from intrigued destinations. When a group or individual (like a nonprofit, community member, realtor, or private sector representative) is interested in contracting with Landing Locals, a housing needs assessment has normally been completed and calls for an unlocking of existing housing stock.
“We need to make sure that there’s political will and the elected officials who often approve the budget are wanting to do something like this,” Frolich explained.
Janvrin shared with Moonshine some of the benefits for jurisdictions working with Landing Locals: the plug-and-play model allows quick movement (within months) for housing and there’s no need for the jurisdiction to hire any staff.
“Jurisdictions don’t always have the capacity to do more programs,” he said. “… We’re the fastest, we’re the cheapest, and we can serve as a de facto extension for the jurisdiction.”
As Landing Locals seeks to grow in markets across the country, the Tahoe setup will serve as a model: a general manager, operations manager, and eventual marketing manager, plus administrative support. Beyond branching out physically, there’s also the hope to grow Landing Locals’ services; one idea is to include housing policy insight for jurisdictions.
Reflecting on the business’ journey from March 2019 to now, Frolich said he’s grateful for the first few who committed.
“I’d like to give lots of kudos to the people that believed in us and took a leap of faith with us, and the first 15 homeowners that took the chance,” he continued. “It’s now become something that we think we can bring to every tourist down in America eventually.”