The Reno City Council heard from residents, housing professionals and developers concerned over the city’s growing homeless population and lack of affordable housing to relocate people. Many are seniors over age 65 who are being evicted from downtown motels and hotels that are seeking to raise rents or build new projects. The Council heard a presentation from Assistant City Manager Bill Thomas who wanted to create a housing committee to look at options to provide more affordable housing for people who cannot afford the current market value in Washoe County.
Reno Mayor Hillary Schieve said “This problem is not unique to Reno, but is a subject discussed by the Conference of Mayors affecting communities nationwide.” Schieve said the problem is a regional one that needs a regional approach, collaboration with everyone involved in the housing industry.
Thomas said of 4,000 people residing in the downtown motels and hotels, 1300 are senior citizens over 65, many of which are 85 years and older that are living on fixed incomes and cannot afford the higher rents. Thomas said he wanted to look at subsidizing this group to transition to descent housing, because new developments would take longer to build. “It’s easier to come up with a rent subsidy rather than build new housing,” he said. In discussing the issue, Thomas said relocation of people is part of the project. “We want to develop a rehousing program in the next six months, that is the goal.”
The Council will come back with identified vacant lots of land that housing can be built on at a future meeting, with a priority to find housing for homeless veterans. Singlefamily units are the largest group of housing currently in the city, and projects could be built to replace them with housing for multiple families. What is driving much of the housing shortage and affordability in the community is new development coming onboard in the area such as Tesla, and many others corporations relocating in the USA Parkway industrial area.
Mac Rossi, a resident who is a member of many downtown boards, said rent control is something that makes people wince, but many seniors are in dire straights. “We’ve seen apartments go from $175 to $225 in one month.”
People currently living in the downtown motels and hotels are often living in deplorable conditions. One resident said she combats bed bugs to keep a roof over her head in an apartment she has been living 16years. She opted to tell her story in hopes to find a new residence before she is homeless.
Homeless advocate Pat Cashill said he supports building tiny homes in the community much like what is in place in Seattle. He said the overflow shelter is at capacity now and new options need to be explored.
Members of the City Council attended a fact finding mission in Seattle recently where they were introduced to a tiny homes project that provided housing for many of the city’s homeless. Councilwoman Neoma Jardon said she favored the concept.