Nevada NewsMakers

News - December 15, 2017 - by Ray Hagar

By Ray Hagar
Nevada Newsmakers

Reno Mayor Hillary Schieve suggested this week on Nevada Newsmakers that "infill projects," fewer parking requirements for developers and even "granny flats" that residents could build onto their homes could be ways to ease the city's growing housing crisis.

The lack of affordable housing is considered a major drawback in Reno's rise as a tech-savvy job market, many state and local government leaders have said.

Reno's housing crunch has forced up the region's median home price to $387,200 as of July, according to the Reno Gazette-Journal. It's a 13 percent jump from July 2016. Rents average more than $1,100 -- if you can find something. The vacancy rate is less than 2.25 percent.

Area leaders were not prepared to deal with the sudden demand of housing in Nevada's traditional boom-and-bust economy, Schieve suggested.

"You've got to remember that we were the highest in foreclosures and unemployment (a few years ago)," Schieve said. "And this Reno Revival has happened very quickly. And in a lot of ways, we were not prepared for some of this infrastructure and some of this housing that is definitely needed."

"I also want to stress, this is just not the City of Reno," Schieve said. "This is (happening) in a lot of markets across the county and yes, housing is going up. The average home price here is $360,000. Now that's a lot easier to swallow than San Francisco at $1.5 million. right? But even still, it is not something that we are used to and we want to continue to provide a quality of life. So this council has become extremely aggressive."

The Reno City Council has had much discussion on the housing crisis. But some have criticized it for not having a focused plan.

Officially, "granny flats" are called 'accessory dwelling units" and take the form of add-ons to current homes or "tiny homes" built in the backyard.

"Those (ADUs) are kind of interesting and happening quite a bit in other cities, certainly with baby boomers and students," she said. "If we make it more accessible and change those zoning requirements where you can do that more often, then we can alleviate some of the housing issues that we have."

"Infill projects" would renovate existing areas inside the city where services like sewer, power plus police and fire protection are in place.

"The area we need to focus on is affordable and work-force housing," she said, adding infill development "is so much more affordable and doesn't stress or strain the services that we need like fire and police."

Schieve also suggested private-public partnerships with developers, citing various ways the city could help spur affordable housing construction.

"That could even be requiring less parking (for housing projects), like you see in (other) cities," Schieve said.

"Then the other piece of that is that we don't have capital to give them but we have to do more private-and-public partnerships," the mayor said. "One of the ways we can do that is if the City of Reno has some land, maybe we come in with the land and they come in with the project. That could also be a way to do it."

City staff have presented the City Council some various ideas on the city-land-for-developers plan in the past year but all have been rejected, according a report by Anjeanette Damon of the RGJ.