Michael Lyle, Nevada Current
January 8, 2024
Nevada is in a “severe housing crisis,” and one that would be even worse if not for federal assistance programs enacted during the Biden administration, Democratic Rep. Susie Lee said in Las Vegas Friday.
Lee heard from nonprofits providing food, housing and utilities assistance including the Just One Project and the United Way of Southern Nevada as well as the nonprofit affordable housing developer Nevada HAND at a forum on Friday to discuss what resources are available to keep people in their homes amid the growing need for assistance.
While organizations have relied on federal funding to address the crisis, including using pandemic recovery dollars provided by the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act, to build more units and administer rental assistance, the need outpaces the amount of resources available.
“This is an issue I hear day-in and day-out across the valley, especially among seniors living on fixed incomes struggling when rent goes up,” Lee said. “Even if it goes up a small amount, it’s an incredible adjustment to someone’s budget.”
Though the housing crisis isn’t new, skyrocketing rents since 2020 along with limited housing stock have exacerbated the problem.
According to the National Low Income Housing Coalition, Nevada lacks 84,000 affordable units for extremely low income renters.
“Nevada is in a severe housing crisis,” Lee said. “Clark County ranks one of the top 10 counties nationwide of the highest concentration of renters.”
While she is able to connect people to community resources, she said there is more to be done at the federal level.
Lee said she has backed legislation that would clear the “bottlenecks and speed up appraisals for public lands that could be used to build affordable housing” as well as a bill to expand the Low-Income Housing Tax Credits, which gives tax credits to developers if they set aside a portion of units for low-income renters.
While she isn’t a sponsor of the bill, Lee said supports legislation proposed by U.S. Rep. Steven Horsford that would “take on speculators coming in who are gobbling up houses and flipping them at a profit.”
A 2021 Stateline analysis found nearly a quarter of all single-family homes sold in 2021 were purchased by investors.
In Nevada, investor purchases increased from 18% to 30% from 2020 to 2021. State lawmakers passed a bill to track corporate investors, but the bill was vetoed by Gov. Joe Lombardo.
During the forum, Lee touted past legislative success as aiding community groups to address the housing crisis, including the American Rescue Plan Act.
Nevada received around $6 billion in federal funds which help with rental and mortgage assistance
The state was also able to direct $500 million of that funding toward building and preserving housing units and a first time homebuyer assistance program.
Nia Girma with the Nevada Housing Division, which has allocated the funding through the Home Means Nevada fund, said they have been able “to help 401 families in the last year purchase a new home despite the high interest rates.”
The program has enough funding left for 99 more families, she said.
Nevada HAND, which operates more than 8,000 affordable housing units throughout Southern Nevada, was one of the organizations that has been able to use federal relief money to begin building more affordable units.
The developer said about 2,000 units are in the pipeline over the next few years.
“We have a crisis in Southern Never so we know it’s just a drop in the bucket to the need,” said Marissa Shoop, the director of residential services with Nevada HAND.
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