Housing crisis

Affordable housing crisis attacked with $250 million in federal relief funds

Amid soaring rent and house prices and a relentless shortage of supply, advocates hope an infusion of hundreds of millions of dollars in federal relief can finally make a dent in the affordable housing crisis. in Nevada.

The state Legislature’s interim finance committee voted on Thursday to allocate the first half of a $500 million investment in affordable housing that Gov. Steve Sisolak announced in February, sending $250 million in funds from the American Rescue Plan Act to the Home Means Nevada initiative to pay for new affordable housing and by preserving housing already covered by the Affordable Housing Tax Credit program.

“It’s not a question of whether we should or not. It’s more about what will happen if we don’t invest in housing. The answer presents itself every day in our current environment, Bill Brewer, executive director of the Nevada Rural Housing Authority, told the committee of lawmakers. “We are in a place of crisis due to decades of difficult challenges. But we have a unique opportunity to reduce this slope. »

The affordable housing problem in Nevada has been growing for years and has become extremely problematic since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Nevada ranks last in the nation when it comes to the availability of affordable housing for very low-income households — those earning 30% or less of the region’s median income — according to data from the National Low Income Housing Coalition. . The state has only 20 affordable rental units available for every 100 very low-income households, an overall shortfall of more than 84,000 affordable units for those residents, according to coalition data.

Housing waiting list

Frederick Haron, administrative director of the Southern Nevada Regional Housing Authority, said the agency has a waiting list of about 29,674 applicants for the authority’s programs.

Thursday’s housing dollars will “move the needle and begin to close the gap between the need for affordable housing and the current housing stock,” said Arielle Edwards, government relations manager for Nevada HAND, an affordable housing developer. non-profit.

Rental rates and home prices have accelerated to astronomical levels in southern Nevada. A report released last month by Zillow showed that Las Vegas had the fourth highest rental rate out of 50 metro areas tracked, with the average rate jumping nearly 33% from February 2020 to February 2022.

Meanwhile, home prices continue to hit record highs, hitting $460,000 in March — a mark 26.7% higher than March 2021.

It’s not just a problem in Clark County either.

The cost of renting a modest one-bedroom apartment in northern Nevada has doubled in the past six years, said Heidi McKendree, acting executive director of the Reno Housing Authority.

“We have a crisis, and it needs to be addressed,” said Congresswoman Maggie Carlton, D-Las Vegas.

How the money will be used

Funding from the Home Means Nevada initiative will be used primarily to build new affordable housing and preserve existing housing, Nevada Division of Housing administrator Steve Aichroth told the committee.

“This initiative will enable the new construction and preservation of desperately needed affordable homes, create and strengthen homeownership opportunities for our Nevada family, and secure land opportunities for future affordable home development,” said he declared.

The preservation aspect would involve rehabilitating and refreshing units that were built using the Affordable Housing Tax Credit, he said. Units built with these credits must meet certain affordability measures for 30 years.

Aichroth said the funding will allow the state to renovate thousands of these units that are approaching 20 years since their construction. In doing so, it will restart that 30-year clock to meet affordability requirements.

Edwards of Nevada HAND said he had 700 affordable homes under construction or rehabilitation and was “ready with projects underway that could benefit from these funds.”

Other Approved Programs

The committee on Thursday allocated a total of $585 million in federal relief dollars from the U.S. bailout, including the $250 million for the housing initiative.

Lawmakers also approved $203 million that, along with other federal grants, will go toward projects to expand high-speed internet access across the state.

Several nonprofits will also receive a portion of the funding approved Thursday, including a $2.6 million grant for the Southern Nevada Legal Aid Center and $100,000 for Safe Nest.

Committee staff said there are about $1.3 billion in unallocated relief dollars left at the state level.

Contact Colton Lochhead at clochhead@reviewjournal.com. To follow @ColtonLochhead on Twitter.