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Housing Forum Reveals Disconnect Between Developers, Working Poor


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.

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

Bob Conrad
Bob Conradhttp://thisisreno.com
Bob Conrad is publisher, editor and co-founder of This Is Reno. He has served in communications positions for various state agencies and earned a doctorate in educational leadership from the University of Nevada, Reno in 2011. He is also a part time instructor at UNR.