Nearly a third of the households in the Truckee Meadows are considered either very low or extremely low income. That’s according to a report created by the Truckee Meadows Regional Planning Agency in 2016. With housing prices continuing to climb, many of those residents are being pushed out of the area. Part of the problem is the lack of publicly subsidized, affordable housing. Reno Public Radio's Paul Boger reports.
It’s mid-afternoon in South Reno, and Dane Hillyard with Greenstreet Companies is walking through the construction site of one of his newest developments.
"So, you understand what this is, right?" Hillyard asks. "[It's] senior, affordable. It's 230 units. It's one and two-bedroom units; everything is in them. They have a full kitchen, washer and dryer and all that stuff in each unit."
If you’ve driven south on Interstate 580, you’ve probably seen the site – Vintage at the Crossing. It’s just one of the several multi-unit developments currently being built in the Truckee Meadows, and it looks like when it’s done, it’ll be pretty nice.
"What we try and do in the units -- these are going to be owned long-term -- so we spend more money on finishes than what you would typically see in an apartment that was going to be flipped and sold, so we have granite countertops, vinyl plank flooring."
But is it affordable?
Multi-family and other high-density dwellings have been popping up for the last few years. And yet, what makes this particular project a little more unique is that it’s meant to be affordable – like, truly affordable. For a one-bedroom, rent will be about $700 a month and $830 for a two bedroom – that’s roughly $400 or $500 a month below market value.
And how are they doing this?
Vintage at the Crossing is one of the first developments in Northern Nevada to receive bond money in more than a decade.
"It takes about a year to assemble the financing for these projects," says Eric Novak with Praxis Consulting, a company that helps developers build more publically-funded affordable housing projects. "It's located in what is called a difficult development area, which allows the project to boost its tax credit equity. The developers were specifically looking for a site that would have this boost in credits, and this was the first new construction bond project since 2004 in Northern Nevada, so it's a big deal."
He says many of the incentives are incredibly difficult to get. The federal Low-Income Housing Tax Credit has been a driving force in the creation of new homes, but it’s capped annually, and bond projects have been nonexistent since 2004. And despite the credits that are available, rising costs of labor and materials outpace the incentives.
"On this project, we got $1.08 per credit," Novak explains. "The next project we did, we were down to $.94 per credit. These new programs come out that help bridge the gap and interest rates go up and we can't borrow as much money. The value of the tax credit goes down, so it's a constant struggle of trying to piece together financing for projects."
To make matters more difficult, most low-income projects are fueled by incentives provided by the federal government, but on the state level, there’s nothing. During the last legislative session, state lawmakers created a committee tasked with examining the state’s current housing crunch and coming up with strategies to address the issue.
"While we would love for the market to take care of everything, the truth of the matter is that 95 percent of affordable units are built with some sort of a tax credit program, typically federal," says Committee Chair Sen. Julia Ratti, a Democrat from Sparks. "Many other states have state-level tax credits. We are so far behind that I believe, personally, it's time that Nevada put some money on the table as well to build more affordable units."
But tax credits aren’t the only tools available to incentivize the construction of affordable housing projects. Cities and counties can also play a role by limiting fees and opening up land.
"Every day, I just talk to more and more people who say housing is their number one issue and it's just going to get worse," Ratti says.
The senator says that leaders can’t just talk about the issues in broad terms anymore because something needs to be done, sooner rather than later.
Open House and Dedication Ceremony at Patriot Place Apartments in Las Vegas, Nevada. Patriot Place Apartments is a 50 unit Low-Income Housing Tax Credit Apartment Community with preference given to qualifying U.S. Veterans. Patriot Place Apartments is own and managed by Accessible Space, Inc. (ASI).
Richard Sullo remembers his reaction when he saw his new apartment for the first time last September.
“I looked at this, and I thought, ‘Holy mackerel!’” he said while sitting on a couch in his one-bedroom unit next to Tazz, his Yorkshire terrier.
Sullo, 70, was one of the first people to move into Patriot Place Apartments, which celebrated its grand opening Thursday. The apartment complex on South Pecos Road in eastern Las Vegas serves renters with low incomes, but its mix of 50 one- and two-bedroom units are spacious with hardwood floors and new appliances.
“This is what happens when people come together and collaborate,” said Stephen Vander Schaaf, president and CEO of Accessible Space, which built the apartment complex.
Patriot Place Apartments cost about $14 million to build, but some $12 million of that came from Accessible Space selling federal tax credits it received from the Nevada Housing Division.
Having less debt on the project allowed the company to charge lower rents. Additionally, the Southern Nevada Regional Housing Authority and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs allocated the project 49 Housing Choice Vouchers to ensure residents pay no more than 30 percent of their income on rent.
As home prices and rental rates soar across Nevada, about 168,000 families in Clark County need assistance obtaining affordable housing, according to the state’s Annual Housing Progress Report.
Today, 44 of the apartments house a U.S. veteran, many of whom have physical disabilities. Thirteen residents were formerly homeless.
Sullo, an Air Force veteran who pays $311 a month in rent, said Patriot Place isn’t just putting an affordable roof over peoples’ heads. Once a month he hosts a poker night, and twice a month there’s guided meditation to help residents living with post-traumatic stress disorder.
“They have managed to make this a place where you can get involved and do stuff,” Sullo said.
Accessible Space soon hopes to break ground on an additional 48-unit affordable housing complex, Allegiance Apartments, less than a mile away later. Those units will likely fill up quickly, too; the wait list for Patriot Place Apartments is nearly 2,000 applications long.
“When you see thousands and thousands of applications, it tears your heart apart because it shows how great the need in our community is,” housing authority interim Executive Director Amparo Gamazo said. “This is why we’re here.
Source: Las Vegas Review Journal