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Housing Forum Reveals Disconnect Between Developers, Working Poor

By Bob Conrad
RED TAPE: Developer Ken Krater, center, said increased regulations mean higher costs to build houses. Krater was joined on the panel with the Reno Housing Authority’s Amy Jones, left, and developer Bob Lissner, right.
RED TAPE: Developer Ken Krater, center, said increased regulations mean higher costs to build houses. Krater was joined on the panel with the Reno Housing Authority’s Amy Jones, left, and developer Bob Lissner, right.

Reno Mayor Hillary Schieve last night used her town hall on housing to explain the realities builders and policymakers face in dealing with Reno’s housing crisis. 

Naysayers, she said, are off base with criticisms leveled at the city for not doing enough to ease the burden on Reno’s working poor.

“I work with some amazing people, not just on this city council, but in this community,” she said at the City of Reno forum hosted by Renown. “If it wasn’t for you guys, we wouldn’t be able to move mountains and do what we’re doing.”

She described the town hall topic as a tough conversation. This is in part because so many in the Reno area suffer from high rents and low wages, but also because developers struggle to provide the housing stock the region needs.

“I wanted to tell a little bit about what the [Reno City] Council has done,” she said. “I think that has been overshadowed a lot by negativity.”

The town hall’s panel featured developers, The Builders Association’s CEO Don Tatro, Reno Housing Authority’s Amy Jones, and Bruce Breslow, former director of the Nevada Department of Business and Industry (now a consultant).

“It’s important for people to hear the challenges of building houses,” Schieve stated after the event. 

“I’d like to hear from the real experts on housing: people surviving despite the miserable housing shortage and inflated prices.”

Some of those challenges include government red tape. Developer Ken Krater said that builders face significantly more barriers now than in the past. 

He suggested that government regulations get a cost-benefit analysis to see if, in fact, so many rules are beneficial while also protecting consumers.

Another topic that received attention was better state-local housing efforts. Schieve subtly chided the state for foisting Tesla onto the region without input from Reno and a solid plan for housing and infrastructure. 

Breslow, who was with the state at the time, responded that elected officials were invited to a town hall when Tesla was announced. 

WORK TOGETHER: Reno’s housing crisis requires everybody working together, said Mayor Hillary Schieve.
WORK TOGETHER: Reno’s housing crisis
requires everybody working together,
said Mayor Hillary Schieve.

Schieve replied that state government should better coordinate with local jurisdictions.

State Senator Julia Ratti, who attended the town hall, acknowledged housing issues were top-of-mind at the Legislature this year, but more work needs to be done.

Rent control, in particular, was discussed at the session, she said. “What I believe is that local government should have the power to make those kinds of decisions because I believe it is very market-based.”

A one-size-fits-all approach from the state level won’t work, she added. “It’s… proven that it has to be matched to the [local] market. I wanted to give local governments who have to live and breathe and do this every single day … the ability to make those decisions.”

Audience Reactions

Some of the discussion did not sit well with those concerned about being one paycheck away from being homeless. Complaints were made by those attendance and online that not enough is being done for those who live in poverty.

Homeless advocate Lisa Lee left the town hall meeting early.

“I felt it was a waste of time,” she said. “I’d like to hear from the real experts on housing: people surviving despite the miserable housing shortage and inflated prices.”

Brooke Noble, who was forced to move after a new landlord jacked up her rent earlier this year, criticized the tone of the discussion.

“I don’t think they understand there is a difference between affordable housing and low-income housing which is disappointing,” she said. “Also, I’m not sure why there is so much laughing going on — this isn’t funny. I’m sure this issue doesn’t affect a single person up there on the stage, but for those in the audience, it’s a big deal.”

Another commenter responded to a point made about more housing being needed to bring prices down, a part of a supply-and-demand discussion.

“I think it’s a hard argument to make that the prevalence of $500,000 homes being constructed currently are necessary to stabilize the market,” wrote William Mantle.

Next Steps

Schieve said that future town halls are a possibility. 

The city last night promoted a new “Story of Housing” webpage that highlights what the city has done in recent years for affordable housing. 

“The City of Reno believes liveable, accessible, and affordable housing should be a basic right of all of our residents,” the site indicates. “The city’s commitment to this mission extends beyond just talk—this is about taking action. We’ve created this timeline that shows every action we’ve taken to help maintain and create housing across our city.”

Schieve also said that the city is expected to make a big announcement regarding housing within the next couple of weeks.

Watch the live-streamed video below



Durb Kaplan September 14, 2019 - 4:52 pm

Eliminating “red tape ” is code for not having to comply with environmental protection, cutting corners on grading, construction, hiring scab and minimum wage workers, skimping on required landscaping, and using substandard materials. The list goes on. Regulations are there for a reason and I’m sick of builders complaining.

Don Vetter September 10, 2019 - 2:06 pm

Did anyone ask the Reno Housing Authority how they are addressing this crisis..they serve just 3,000 people and have a waiting list of 7,000? (Sourced from their own materials.) Curious what’s up with that. And in the city’s slide show it lists several s approved projects, from around 2017. How many of those have actually been built? It just shows that there appears to be a wide disconnect in govt. actions and reality.

Cody Munger September 6, 2019 - 9:42 am

I see plenty of luxury apartments going up on the south end. Though the rest of us can’t even afford to live in town anymore, preferring Fernley or Cold Springs. Hey, if building affordable housing isn’t going to happen, how about at least bringing in some decent paying jobs so we can afford the exorbitant rent.

James Demestihas September 6, 2019 - 12:46 pm

the housing issues would be helped to resolve itself by better paying wages. Find a way to make businesses pay living wages….or stop the building and bringing in companies tax free or breaks to take more advantage of the people. Tesla,Panasonic and Apple, etc need to live up to their end of the promises.The number of jobs isnt even as important as the salaries they promised. Everyone remember the $21/hr starting wages that were all over the media outlets? Well apparently that was only for a couple jobs…..Theyre doing the same as everybody else these days too……Low pay through Temp agencies….. The current Mayor and Governor arent responsible for this mess. The mayor is working hard on a mountain of disaster. Many on the panel….are, with the former Government.So we have multiple issues all related and intertwined…..inadequate wages for the working class, lack of housing, lack of low income affordable housing (not apts!houses!), current landlords gouging, the old and still homeless, and the new homeless (working) with no homes. Ive seen a lot mentioned lately about rent control, meaning limiting how much a landlord can raise the rent by percentage per year. Ive seen the amount of 15% per year listed. Thats a ridiculous figure when companies , if they even give an annual raise, give what 3.5% max without a promotion.So how, after the 1st year, do you pay a 15% increase per year when you dont get anywhere near that? Move again? Moving frequently as a financial necessity has a detrimental effect on children. And the costs to move arent cheap either. The working poor dont have The application fee’s , the administrative/movein docs charges, 1st, plus month security…and god forbid they have pets, $500 deposit each, plus set up a pet profile for each pet $35,pet insurance, rental insurance, etc…etc….in total about $4k-$5k for

James Demestihas September 6, 2019 - 12:51 pm

your avg home move in…….plus a truck and alot of friends muscles

Bonnie Gartner September 6, 2019 - 9:34 am

I live on Social Security. All I can afford is an apartment that is 330 sq. Ft. No bedroom. Two,burner stove top . No oven. Under the counter refrigerator. $740/month including Durect TV and Wifi. I have lived here 13 years. Started 13 years ago paying $455/month. If it goes much higher, I will be on the street.

Jacob Carnahan September 5, 2019 - 8:43 pm

This article makes Mayor Schieve sound like she’s a little starved for praise for the far too little she has done about housing. I am not sure if that is the light you meant to portray her in, but I have been perplexed for some time as to how housing is such a difficult issue. Maybe rather than coming out on the defensive, she should be a little more receptive. She should have come out with a notebook rather than a presentation. Maybe it is a tough issue. Maybe they don’t have ideas or their ideas are just horrible and one sided. The fact is that our elected aren’t brilliant. They aren’t representative of the entire population. They know nothing of equity. Ask how much they put towards housing the homeless and then ask how much it was to turn the arch blue or install a whale sculpture in Nevada, in front of city hall. I’m an artist so I can say cool whale, and inappropriate expenditure of city funds in a time of crisis for the people who keep downtown businesses running. We need a more complex solution than low quality apartments built in bulk charging $1000 a month. City council should create contests for solutions to their problems.

Bob Conrad
Bob Conrad September 5, 2019 - 9:29 pm

Your suggestions are great ideas. I bet the city hall folks would be receptive to hearing them.

I think the event is the start of hopefully a new type of conversation about these issues. It’s clear folks are worlds apart in how they see the problems even though it appears most want to work in a lot of common directions.

Thanks for the comment.

Scott Thomas September 5, 2019 - 8:23 pm

The Mayor is of course perfectly happy with how things are going—her mission to turn Reno into a smaller version of San Francisco is perfectly on track. Gee, how well has San Francisco been working lately?

Dave Morgan September 6, 2019 - 10:08 am

It sounded like those “preaching” to the audience were basically on a mission to”think about” creating affordable housing. What they’re doing up on that stage was hacking and cutting their way through THE WRONG JUNGLE. The key to affordable housing is finding land cheap or free. And it’s happening all over the country. We condemn property for streets, highways and freeways, schools and public buildings but when it comes to housing we don’t. It’s time America grew up, be adults and admit that profit maximization on every street corner is a deteriorating, if not destructive way of doing things. Reno needs to learn about what’s going on in the housing industry outside Reno’s city limits. Outside of Nevada. Outside of the U.S. There are exciting new technologies all over the place and Reno (if not most of Nevada) is sitting on the couch contemplating their desperation. There are companies springing up all over the world that don’t build cars in their back yards. They build cars and trucks in factories AND ALSO build homes for their fellow citizens in factories. These homes are better constructed, are extremely low maintenance and eminently affordable. They’re good looking and they can be built and delivered to 100 unit three and four story mid-rise configurations on a 90 day time line. NINETY DAYS!! The Monterey California Housing Authority has been doing it for quite a while. Look’em up. They’re not building slums, they’re building attractive communities. Reno, there’s a world out there! And you’ll find it very interesting if you just review the needs of your community and do a little homework. Guerdon Modular Buildings in Boise is another idea starter.

rachel haverly September 10, 2019 - 10:40 pm

I agree Scott Thomas. The City Council is duplicating several things the Mayor of San Fran did in 1990’s.
Taking away affordable housing. Replacing with high-end housing that only people in tech industry could afford. What do they have now? Shit on streets, mass homelessness. Restaurants closing down cause they cannot afford to pay staff. Has anyone noticed a lot of stores closing down here recently. I have its sad.

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