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County Approves Fund For Affordable Housing (Subscriber Content)


Full house. Image: Washoe County.

A trust fund for the acquisition, construction and rehabilitation of affordable housing was recently approved by the Washoe County Commission during its first of two hearings. The second and final hearing on the trust fund ordinance is scheduled March 26. 

Dollars deposited into the newly established Regional Housing Trust Fund will be used to increase and improve the supply of properties to “low income households.” These are defined as having incomes below 80 percent of Washoe County’s median wages set forth by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.  

Land countywide would be eligible for fund money, although the location of units receiving dollars must be consistent with regionally adopted housing plans.

The idea sprung from county dialogue with Acting in Community Together in Organizing Northern Nevada, also known as ACTIONN.  The trust fund structure is used in communities nationwide.

Several people spoke in support of the ordinance at the Feb. 26 meeting, including Jessica Wise, on behalf of the Food Bank of Northern Nevada.  She called skyrocketing housing prices a “public health crisis.”  Without the ordinance, she said some people have to chose between paying for food or shelter.

“People within our community will be pushed off a cliff and into making difficult decisions for their families,” Wise said. 

According to county literature, the trust fund will be established and administered by the Community Foundation of Western Nevada after it submits a review of financial records, written plans, proposals for disbursing and collecting money, and overview of operational costs.  The Washoe County HOME Consortium would administer the solicitation and award process.

Any public money, donations from private sources, and other revenue to be deposited into the fund would be determined by county commissioners. 

Assistant County
Manager Kate Thomas.

“At this time there is no funding source but this ordinance sets up framework for funds to come in,” Assistant County Manager Kate Thomas said.  

Thomas said an in-place structure now allows private funds to be received sooner rather than later.

A report detailing statement of income, expenses, number of units constructed, amount of people assisted, disbursements and other uses for the fund would be provided to commissioners in one year and each year thereafter.

“Should needs change in the region, this ordinance would come back for a couple readings,” Thomas said.  “So, given the plan and the ability to be modified with changing needs of our community, it’s really the better structure.”

Carla O'Day
Carla O'Day
Carla has an undergraduate degree in journalism and more than 10 years experience as a daily newspaper reporter. She grew up in Jacksonville, Fla., moved to the Reno area in 2002 and wrote for the Reno Gazette-Journal for 8 years, covering a variety of topics. Prior to that, she covered local government in Fort Pierce, Fla.