Operation Downtown Meets to Address Current Housing Crisis

Steamboat by Vintage, a new 360-unit development, is expected to open in summer of 2019.
Steamboat by Vintage, a new 360-unit development, is expected to open in summer of 2019.

Operation Downtown met at Reno City Hall to present and discuss the current actions being taken with respect to the lack of affordable housing and the blight of increasing homelessness.

Steve Aichroth of the Nevada Housing Division spoke about the ‘toolbox’ available for the people of Reno and its’ businesses. Aichroth highlighted six multi-million dollar funded programs that have been recently incorporated to help meet the ever-growing affordable housing needs of the city.

Aichroth also stated that affordable housing programs in the city of Reno will receive an additional 700 to 800 low income/affordable housing units within the next two years. Examples of these are The Summit Club, Sky Mountain, and the Steamboat by Vintage.

Meanwhile, homebuyer programs help fill the void by identifying eligible demographics such as veterans (roughly 300 veterans are assisted every month) and Nevada teachers (over 500 teachers are now homeowners) who are given assistance with a down payment below market interest rates.

Terra One representative Madsih Madani also spoke about affordable tiny homes as another currently available and viable option. These top-of-the-line 320-640 sq. ft. tiny homes are built from shipping containers, are outfitted with standard housing elements, and cost around $5,500. Moreover, there is currently a raffle to win a tiny home. Ticket Entry is $100 per ticket.

Ken Krater, who runs Operation Downtown stated, “We can make this happen. We have the resources.” Operation Downtown members wholeheartedly agreed; particularly when Mayor Schieve and the recently hired executive director of Downtown Reno Business Improvement District (BID), Alex Stettinski, spoke volumes about the success other cities, such as Chicago and Detroit, have had with model programs like ambassador programs.

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These cities have taken a much greater length of time to establish a BID and ambassador program. Mayor Schieve humorously pointed out that even Reno’s sister city Las Vegas took many more years to create their BID. Schieve added that the reason behind the speed of getting these programs off the ground is due to the hard work, collaboration, and dedication of the people of Reno.

Image: Ty O’Neil

Stettinski referred to other BID programs he has helped set up including one currently working in Los Angeles. He, too, complimented the people of the city of Reno for having truly unique and amazing hearts to make this happen. “The energy you have in this town to make a difference is incredible and undeniable. I haven’t seen anywhere else like this.”

Stettinski went into great detail about the Ambassador Program that will be launched in October. He described how these ambassadors will be the faces of Reno and keys to revitalizing the downtown area. Furthermore, all ambassadors will be local hires.

The need to attract the right candidate to the position of ambassador who possesses the qualifications and skills required to ensure success of this critical program sparked an engaged conversation and an agreement to research the position further. As it stands, this full-time position will pay $14/hr, or roughly $29,150 per year. As such, each Reno ambassador would be ironically qualified for low-income HUD housing.

“Meetings like this, you get to see how much everyone in the government actually agrees on. Rather than the focus being on everything we don’t agree on. And the next three years we’re focusing on what we do agree on to move forward and grow,” said Ken Krater.

Victoria Janicke
About Victoria Janicke 27 Articles
Torri is back in Reno in pursuit of what sets her soul on fire: documenting social issues and following stories wherever she goes. After her last freelance story with ThisIsReno in 2014, Torri has spent the past four years as a bilingual advocate for victims of domestic abuse, sexual assault, and other traumatic crimes in diverse cities from San Diego to the rural deep South where she earned her master's degree in social work. There, she developed a successful non-profit food pantry on campus, established, and created a disaster relief initiative for the School of Social Work and even volunteered to support refugees in Iraqi Kurdistan over a winter holiday break.