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Senior Spectrum Newspaper
June 2018
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Senior Spectrum Publications

Seniors and the Affordable Housing Crisis
by Donna Clontz
Chair, Reno Senior Citizen Advisory Committee
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Donna Clontz
Donna Clontz

With the influx of workers for new businesses in our area, the supply of rental units has gone down to nearly zero and demand is forcing rents higher and higher. In 2017, Reno was 4th among cities with the highest rent increases in the US. Average rent in Reno is over $1200 per month these days and at least one third of Reno households cannot afford the median rent.

Despite these grim statistics, there are some rays of sunshine. Elaine Wiseman and Tillery Williams from the Reno City Manager’s Office are working to address the critical need for more affordable housing in our area for all residents, including seniors. At their Older Americans Month talk in May, they said that the over65 population is estimated to increase by 66 percent in our area over the next 20 years, and many are retired from the workforce so are living on fixed incomes. As rents increase and income remains the same, many are being forced to move from their current homes to seek less expensive housing. Households earning less than $34,050, which is 50 percent of the average median income (AMI) for a family of four in Reno, have the greatest need for affordable housing. These lower income residents and seniors are a priority for Reno affordable housing planners. There is a serious need for more compact development, more redevelopment and higher density housing that would include more duplexes, triplexes, condos, town homes, apartments and other multiunit housing, and the city council wants to find ways to address this need.

In January 2017, the Reno Area Alliance for the Homeless PointinTime Count found nearly 1300 seniors were living in weekly motels in the area, some in deplorable conditions. In January 2018, only 1067 seniors—still too many were counted in weekly motels. Reno City officials are stepping up code enforcement inspections and changing city ordinances to create better living conditions for motel residents. They also began a new senior Rehousing Program that makes rehousing seniors displaced from motels into residential rental units a high priority.

There are several new multifamily developments coming online in Reno for seniors and families earning 60 percent or less of the average median income, but many more are needed. In 2019, the Reno Housing Authority will complete the 44unit Sutro Street Senior Apartments for seniors earning 40 percent or less of AMI. Construction costs continue to increase, and financing for affordable/low income housing is very complicated, but some local developers are willing to invest their time, talent and resources in these much needed projects.

Seniors and the Affordable Housing Crisis

Recently, the Community Foundation of Western Nevada www.nevadafund.org created a nonprofit Affordable Housing Land Trust that adds a complex of 200 dorm style rooms for minimum wage workers, homeless teens and seniors displaced from motels on land sold to the trust for $1 by the City of Reno. This housing is expected to open in Fall 2018 to low income tenants.

Wraparound social services will assist residents to gain resources to eventually move to more permanent housing. Reno City Council recently voted to create its own land trust for affordable housing and has just begun working on it. Washoe County is also discussing the creation of a land trust for affordable housing but has yet to vote on the issue.

We all can encourage more affordable housing projects by contacting our city council and county commission members and attending all the meetings where the topic is being discussed and stressing our support for more affordable housing. Look for agendas at www.reno.gov, www.washoecounty.us and www.cityofsparks.us. Another important way you can help is to take a moment to take two surveys that are now on the Truckee Meadows Regional Planning Agency website: The Truckee Meadows Healthy Community’s affordable housing community survey at https://tmaffordablehousing. metroquest.com/ and our new senior survey at www.tmrpa.org/seniorsurvey. Your opinion on desperately needed, housing matters!