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Home > News > Non-profit > Reno’s housing crisis: it takes a village

Reno’s housing crisis: it takes a village

By Don Dike Anukam
Village on Sage Street. Image: Community Foundation.

On a recent cold December night TMCC student and Starbucks barista, Devon, tucked herself into a cozy computer room at Village on Sage Street to work on her homework and personal budget. Devon, like many Reno area college students, is feeling the squeeze that limited affordable housing options are imposing on many students and young workers like herself throughout northern Nevada.

“Rent has just been rising every year,” said Devon. “And it’s becoming [harder] to afford living in Reno as a student who’s not making, you know, full-time wages.” Before finding Village on Sage Street she worried about how to pay for food, rent, and her other bills and continue school.

I met Devon while touring Village on Sage Street, a newly created complex of dorm-style housing near downtown Reno. Squeezed between East Fourth Street and the railroad tracks by the former Reno Gazette-Journal building, Village on Sage Street is an attempt to address the affordable housing crisis that is dominating our community’s focus as of late. 

My guide on the tour was Nick Tscheekar, the community engagement officer for the Community Foundation of Western Nevada. He shared how the innovative housing complex is a collaboration of a nonprofits and local developers that came together in 2017 to work on meeting market demand and provide some relief from the housing crisis.

Land, a vision, and a former man camp

With a grant of four acres of land from the City of Reno, a vision, and tenacious drive from the organization founders and leadership, the Community Foundation Housing Land Trust was formed. It will be used exclusively for affordable housing, Tscheekar informed me. According to the organization’s website, “The Village on Sage Street is a self-paid housing community and is not subsidized housing.”

The Trust acquired former camp structures from Wyoming that once housed hundreds of workers and support personnel in the oil sand fields. These modular structures were moved to Reno by truck and carefully reassembled in place to put the project together. What came of it was a complex of eight modular buildings with the capacity to house 220 small single-occupancy units, in a dorm-style living setting.

A Village on Sage Street dorm-style unit. Image: Bob Conrad.
A Sage Street Village dorm-style unit.
Image: Bob Conrad.

The accommodations may not be huge, but they work for students like Devon and others who are living on a limited budget. Residents have room for basic necessities like a built-in-bed, flat screen TV, and a shared bathroom. Like a dormitory arrangement, “The Village also has onsite laundry, meeting and recreation spaces, is Wi-Fi compatible, and provides an outdoor gathering area.”

The Community Foundation took measures to make Village on Sage Street a comfortable and safe place as well; security and safety were a major priority and feature for the village. The property has a secure code-based entry system, Volunteers of America staff on site and patrolling 24-hours a day, seven days a week.

It does offer other advantages and elements, including a communal dining room, a community gathering room, a small store offering food and sundry items, laundry, gym, outdoor fireplace, plenty of parking, and more.

A hand up, not a handout

What sets this location apart is that has a focus on affordability and accessibility for the public and its tenants. As noted from the website, “Our goal for the Village on Sage is that this bridge housing is a hand up, not a handout or a profit-maker. A person earning $9 an hour will be able to afford the $400 monthly rent and achieve savings goals. Any single adult who passes a background check and has an income of approximately $1,320 to $2,735 per month will meet the income qualifications for residency.”

In fact, to support tenants in achieving savings goals and moving on to other housing in the future, the Village provides financial counseling to all residents. However, tenants have no limit on the length of their residency at the Village; it’s bridge housing that will be there for them until they’re financially ready to leave.

Village on Sage Street is run by Volunteers of America, which also conducts security and maintenance of the site. Village on Sage has space available at this time, as they are openly seeking applicants and tenants to apply. For more information visit:  https://nevadafund.org/initiatives/village-sage-street/

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6 comments

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Aaron Silverstein February 8, 2020 - 3:29 pm

So if you get SSDI ….or have a crimenil record you can’t live there…. And why would someone making $1300 a month live in a place that has no bathroom in the room…when for just $200 more they can rent a apartment…this place is nothing but a fake Charity..

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Ed Powell February 4, 2020 - 7:59 am

It seems your photographer may have had to work at finding such a stark perspective (or, perhaps, was this just after the modules were trucked in?). The area is landscaped quite nicely and a photo taken from the “front” of the buildings would represent the area much better. Thanks, also, for including the financial “rules” for occupancy – it is not a homeless shelter.
The “man camp” housing systems suggest affordable ways for affordable housing nationwide, but, realistically, we all need to realize that connecting such housing to water/sewer infrastructure is a major (?) part of the cost.
Congratulations to Volunteers of America for providing advisory and security services.
Well Done – Village at Sage Street!

Bob Conrad
Bob Conrad February 6, 2020 - 3:02 pm

Ed, we updated the image, since the one we posted was from a 2018 visit to the site. Thanks for your comment.

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Tara McGann February 4, 2020 - 3:57 am

This is a wonderful project! I hope it becomes a model for affordable housing for people on fixed and limited incomes in Reno and elsewhere.

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LEANN O RICHARDSON February 3, 2020 - 8:53 am

student housing, worker housing. Please do not omit affordable housing for Senior Citizens. I can no longer live alone and the options for someone like me are almost non available. Unless you want to be like me work hard and long so you can afford to be old.

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Konner Robison February 3, 2020 - 2:12 pm

Hi, Leann-you raise a great point! The Village saw that need as well and made an exception to our income requirements to make sure we could accommodate more seniors. Now, all seniors in need of housing who have an income of $783 or more and have put their name on another senior housing waiting list can apply to live at the Village just like our workforce applicants. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to VoA or The Community Foundation if you have any more questions or want to apply.

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