Nevada’s affordable housing availability is reaching critical levels, according to some experts.
State lawmakers are considering bills to provide more opportunities for lower-income Nevadans to be able to afford a place to live.
This comes as one major method of assistance has a major waitlist.
As the Las Vegas valley’s economy booms, it creates a pinch in an area you may not immediately think of — housing.
Economists and housing officials say there’s no two ways about it, there’s a shortage of affordable housing and programs to help people afford reasonable lodging.
“That’s a backlog of several years,” said Chad Williams, who is the executive director of the Southern Nevada Regional Housing Authority.
He says his agency helps 54,000 people in Clark County and the majority of those — about 30,000 — receive housing choice vouchers — sometimes known as Section 8.
The rest are in public housing run by the housing authority. He says that is a long way from fully addressing the need.
“Currently, we have a waiting list of 47,000 individuals/families, either waiting for public housing or housing choice voucher,” Williams said.
According to statistics from the National Low Income Housing Coalition, a minimum wage earner would have to work 72 hours a week to be able to afford renting a one-bedroom rental home at fair market value.
Programs like housing choice vouchers use federal grant dollars to pay for a portion of someone’s rent.
UNLV Public Policy Professor Karen Danielsen says vouchers and subsidies have become a more preferred method of providing affordable housing than government-owned housing projects.
“If you concentrate poverty, then you reduce people’s opportunities, so the idea is to give them the choice to live where they want to live within the means of the subsidy they’re using,” Danielsen said.
It’s not mandatory for a landlord to accept housing choice vouchers so not every rental property is available to those who have assistance.
Danielsen says that, paired with developers being less likely to build affordable housing units as part of their developments, compounds the shortage during times when housing prices and rent goes up.
“The people who are not making a lot of money, they’re kind of stuck down there and there’s not enough housing at that level being built, because it’s really hard for developers to make that pencil out as they call it, where they can actually make a profit on it,” Danielsen said.
It’s a complicated problem with no easy solution.
Northern Nevada Senator Julia Ratti is floating an amendment to her affordable housing bill that would allow cities and counties to impose rent controls or require a certain amount of affordable homes to be included in housing developments.
The bill is still in the early stages of working its way through the legislative process.