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Report: 6,000 workforce housing units needed this year

By Bob Conrad

A report released today by the University of Nevada, Reno shows 6,000 new residential units are needed in the region in order to keep pace with workforce needs.

Brian Bonnenfant with UNR’s Center for Regional Studies, which produced the report, said the study focuses just on workforce housing. 

Brian Bonnenfant, project manager for the Center for Regional Studies at the University of Nevada, Reno. Image: Abby Ocampo / This Is Reno.
Brian Bonnenfant, project manager for the Center for Regional Studies at the University of Nevada, Reno. Image: Abby Ocampo / This Is Reno.

“Those not in our labor force, such as retirees, also need residences,” he told This Is Reno.

The 6,000 new units are needed to meet workforce demands throughout Reno, Sparks and Fernley – to encompass Storey County’s TRI Center. The study is based on new jobs added to the market since 2014.

“Using these trends, combined with projected job growth in Fernley, the region is expected to add 10,777 jobs in 2022,” the study indicates.

Affordability was also detailed in the report, and fewer people are able to afford both home purchases or skyrocketing rents.

“Purchasing a median-priced, single family home is largely out of reach for single-earners employed in all [area] industries,” the study notes.

The median single-family home price is $535,000, while townhomes and condos are about $370,000.

That means renting is a better option, “but just slightly,” according to the report. “Nearly 55% of single earners across seven industries … can afford $1,535 in monthly rent.”

Those living solo will need much higher incomes to afford to live here. Local wages, however, have not kept up with housing demands, which puts home ownership and the ability to rent out of reach for many. 

“According to the most current wage surveys (2nd quarter 2021), average wages in the Reno [area] range between $28,824 – $108,037 per year, depending on industry,” the report continues. “There is a significant difference between what single-earner and multi-earner households can afford in terms of housing.”

EDAWN CEO Mike Kazmierski on March 8, 2022 in Reno, Nev. Image: Ty O’Neil / This Is Reno

Economic Development Authority of Western Nevada Executive Mike Kazmierski used the report to call for more residential construction.

“From 2000 to 2007, our community averaged over 5,200 new housing units a year,” he said in a press release. “Yet we have failed to approach that number over the past 15 years while experiencing a population increase of over 60,000. 

“How can we not have a problem?” he said. “We are not serious about addressing the growing need for affordable housing when we delay or downsize housing projects based on NIMBY pushback.”

Bonnenfant said if the labor force suffers, housing costs will continue to rise.

“If inventory stays low, that puts more competition on the inventory. All of it points to higher prices and housing costs,” he said. “This lack of new residential inventory severely hampers the attraction of labor force and puts significant upward pressure on home prices and rents. 

“Affordable housing for our children, future generations and current labor force relies on a significant increase in the pace of housing construction,” Bonnenfant added.

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