County Advances Affordable Housing Trust Fund Initiative

Full house. Image: Washoe County.
Full house. Image: Washoe County.

The Washoe Board of County Commissioners today heard discussion about a trust fund that would create more affordable housing options in the region. Commissioners approved moving forward with the fund, the idea of which was developed with the nonprofit Acting in Community Together in Organizing Northern Nevada (ACTIONN).

A full house of supporters showed up to commission chambers this morning. Most all spoke in favor of the fund. A number of people testified about dire living conditions. Stories ranged from local residents who were formally working professionals that became homeless, to retirees faced with eviction due to rent increases.

Marsha Berkbigler
Washoe County Commissioner Marsha Berkbigler.

“It’s offensive to me that we live in the greatest country in the world and yet we have people who have to give up their children because they can’t afford a roof over their head…” said Commissioner Marsha Berkbigler.

Questions remain about the source of the fund. County staff were directed to move forward with possible sources including government services taxes (paid when cars are registered), general fund, and Commissioner Bob Lucey suggested Storey County also assist with the fund.

J.D. Klippenstein of ACTIONN praised the county for working on the initiative.

“The way you can get to revenue sources is by leveraging local revenue,” he said. “And there is no revenue unless you consider the governmental services tax.”

That, he said, would lead to more opportunities for additional state, federal and private funds.

“We’ve done eight months of research on this,” Klippensten added. “The best practice is for a local municipality to put their own skin in the game with funding.”

The fund would be managed by the Community Foundation of Western Nevada. Possible projects include workforce housing, multifamily housing and sober housing.

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“I think the recommendation to have the Community Foundation of Western Nevada oversee the fund, is a wonderful recommendation,” said Commissioner Kitty Jung. “We need to move this forward, not study it, but move it forward sooner rather than later.”

Commissioners will next hear a draft ordinance about the fund at a January 2019 meeting.

Bob Conrad
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Bob Conrad is co-founder of ThisisReno. He manages ThisisReno and Conrad Communications, LLC, his marketing communications consulting company. He also works part time for the University of Nevada, Reno.

4 Comments

  1. The reason we do not have affordable housing in Reno is due to politics at the local level. If there were zoned tiny home neighborhoods (for permanently affixed Tiny Homes–not for trailers, and lots for individual purchases), since Tiny Homes are so affordable, individual homes could be bought by buyers who want to live there or buyers who want to rent out the tiny home to others. Blame the housing affordability problem on zoning and building regulations that this is not in existence. According to this writer, Portland OR leads the country in doing this. https://www.gobankingrates.com/investing/real-estate/cities-most-tiny-homes/#13

    • There is “TinyTen”, ten small, fixed foundation houses, with garages, on Ryland, one block east of Wells. The development would not be able to meet Federal (FHA) standards on unit sizes ( which most cities have adopted). So, Reno seems to have allowed this by revising its zoning code. I haven’t researched this aspect but it seems like the City of Reno is in on this.

  2. Affordable housing is such a critical need for so many in our county–especially low and fixed income seniors who have been here for decades. Many are forced to move to weekly motels, shelters or leave the area when their rents go higher than they can afford. Thank you, Commissioners, for listening to everyone and moving quickly toward a solution with ACTIONN, the Community Foundation and others.

  3. Thank you, County Commissiones, for listening to your constituents from all walks of life, and moving forward to establish a fund for housing that people can afford. You have done a good work for our citizens.

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