Reno will discuss the critical need for affordable housing

Amid growing unease over skyrocketing rent and house prices, the Reno City Council is holding a special meeting on Tuesday to discuss solutions that could ease the pressure on the market and increase the number affordable housing.

Over the past five years, prices for one-bedroom apartments in Reno have jumped nearly 91%, from a median of $668 per month in 2017 to $1,275 in 2022. Home prices have also surged, hitting a record median price of $570,000 for the Reno-Zone Sparks last month.

Seemingly relentless price hikes have made it difficult for most families to pay rent or mortgages, Mayor Hillary Schieve said. The Nevada Independent during an interview on Sunday. At Tuesday’s meeting, she said staff and council members will review the city’s growth trajectory and discuss ongoing efforts to reduce housing costs and other steps the city could take.

“There is no one-size-fits-all solution,” Schieve said. “We have to do everything we can.”

The city’s options, however, are limited by the scope and authority of local government, meaning the city does not have explicit authority to implement policies such as a rent control law, she said.

But Schieve said the council could increase housing options and work with state and county leaders to tackle housing insecurity by combining resources with other jurisdictions and offering support services such as helping residents access housing subsidies and providing mental health services.

One way to drive down housing costs is to increase the amount of housing, as part of a supply and demand equation, Schieve said. Through programs such as the city’s “1,000 Homes in 120 Days,” which provide developers with local permit fee deferrals that act as interest-free “loans” to attract more construction, the city could increase inventory, which would eventually reduce demand and prices.

As of March 2020, 2,107 units have been approved for construction under the program and 1,521 are slated for future review. City offices were closed Monday for Presidents Day and were unable to respond to a request for an update on the number of units built under the program.

Additionally, the mayor said she and her staff are considering increasing the number of developments zoned for mixed families and allowing landlords to build separate living units on one property, such as a mother-in-law’s apartment. His remarks come after ProPublica report highlighting the lack of replacement for city-approved demolitions of weekly motels, which are one of the few affordable housing options in the area for residents on fixed incomes.

Schieve expects state officials and other community leaders to be present for the special meeting. Since the city has limited resources and Washoe County is the lead provider of homeless services in northern Nevada, Schieve said it was a team effort and she was looking to other jurisdictions for help.

“We’re going to build it, but then [the county has] must provide the support services, she said. “That’s what they do, but we all have to do it together.”

The city plans to hold meetings focused on affordable housing every three weeks, Schieve said. She hopes the meetings will encourage greater community input and participation as the city faces housing challenges.

The affordability factor

But Schieve said it’s not as simple as just building new houses or apartments.

Affordable housing built under the federal Low-Income Housing Tax Credit program receives federal tax subsidies that partially offset construction costs. Federal law sets a limit on the income level of tenants and the amount of rent that landlords can charge them.

Owners are required to maintain affordability (as defined by the terms of a tax credit agreement) for a period of 15 to 30 years. At this point, owners can either renew the affordability status or drop it and rent or sell their property at the market rate.

During the 2021 legislative session, lawmakers passed SB12, a law requiring homeowners under subsidized affordability restrictions and under the oversight of the Nevada Division of Housing to notify local governments and tenants a full year before they intend to let the restrictions expire.

State lawmakers said it would give local governments time to react to designated affordable units that go off the market. Still, with market rates as high as they are, Schieve said there’s minimal incentive for landlords to keep housing affordable.

Additional funding on the horizon

Along with a discussion of land use and zoning, the council is expected to weigh in on how best to spend the city’s share of federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding for affordable housing projects. Council members voted in January to set aside more than 50% of the nearly $25 million the city has received in ARPA funds for affordable housing.

During the pandemic, the city received funding from the federal CARES Act that allowed it to set aside resources to help people pay rental bond fees and create crisis relocation vouchers. The influx of funding also enabled Reno to help build the Nevada Cares Campus, a 46,000 square foot shelter.

Schieve said ARPA funding would allow the city to develop workforce, transitional and other affordable housing beyond what was allowed under the CARES Act.

“We never had the financial capacity to do anything and now, with this federal funding, we’re finally now going, ‘Wow, we can take this money and we can actually build housing,’” he said. she stated. “We have always had to rely on private development. There must therefore always be a private and public partnership.

the Reno Gazette Journal reported that the Reno Housing Authority is considering buying the former Sundowner Casino Hotel and Bonanza Inn as part of a 1,000-unit project focused on workforce housing (affordable housing for workers and close of their work) backed by Schieve and developer Jacobs Entertainment. Although the housing authority has submitted an offer to purchase the hostel and a letter of intent to bid on the Sundowner, the bids are not public. Schieve said nothing has been finalized yet.

“I would love it to be workforce housing right downtown,” she said. “A lot of service workers downtown [make] very low wages and these are people who could never qualify for a mortgage, but they don’t qualify for financial aid because they earn too much.

Even so, Schieve warned that it takes time to bring housing projects to life.

Construction timelines could be hampered by pandemic-related supply shortages, a problem that cannot be solved even with the additional federal funding.

“We have to explore all options because people need it. And they need us more than ever,” she said. “We’ve never seen that financial ability to do it…and we have to keep trying.”

About Susie Jones

Check Also

OPPO Reno 8Z 5G with Snapdragon 695 SoC, 8GB RAM listed on Geekbench, expected to launch soon

Representative picture (Oppo Reno 7Z) OPPO first launched the Reno8 series smartphone in China with …