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.
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/
Don Dike-Anukam is a Reno native attending college in northern Nevada. He has been involved in activist politics for 15 years on and off, and has been involved in multiple campaigns in multiple positions in that time. He also was a college radio political, news, and talk-show host covering a range of stories from hostage standoffs, fires, interviews, and public speeches.