Affordable housing solutions big issue for Nevada Legislature
January 23, 2019
CARSON CITY, Nev. — Affordable housing will be a key issue during the 80th session of the Nevada Legislature.
A handful of bills to address the lack of housing throughout the state have been submitted, including five bill draft requests from the Committee to Study Issues Regarding Affordable Housing, a committee formed to study the topic during the interim.
And the issue will have a new champion: the Nevada Housing Coalition.
The coalition was formed late last year and is headed by Bill Brewer, executive director of the Nevada Rural Housing Authority.
"If there is a good piece of legislation we want to be there to support it," said Brewer.
The coalition plans to advocate for the five bills produced by the interim study.
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Those bills include one that would allow local municipalities to subsidize affordable housing projects without having to pay it back from the general fund, as is required now.
"If they want to use redevelopment money, they could do that," said Brewer. "It would make them more willing to pony up."
Another bill was touted by Gov. Steve Sisolak in his state of the state speech: a $10 million-a-year housing tax credit that mirrors a successful federal program, said Brewer.
"At $10 million a year, it could generate $90-100 million in affordable housing," he said. "It has worked well on a national level."
Another bill would expand the State Medicaid Plan Option, which would allow Nevada to offer a variety of services "that would facilitate housing as health care," according to the BDR text.
Another bill would standardize legal definitions and create three tiers of affordable housing — one tier based on residents having 60 percent of area median income (AMI), a second tier based on 60-80 percent of AMI, and a third based on 80-120 percent of AMI that would be so-called workforce housing.
"It's not a huge difference, but if we changed that we'd all be having the same conversation," said Brewer.
The last bill would link two databases tracking affordable housing and make them available via the Nevada Housing Division.
"One-stop shopping for data would be smart," said Brewer.
There are at least two other bills addressing affordable housing, but the coalition may not take a position because it doesn't have the resources, not because it's for or against the bills.
One bill proposing various tax changes would authorize county commissioners to impose additional sales tax that could be used for myriad purposes, including affordable housing.
The Nevada Housing Coalition was launched by Wells Fargo and Charles Schwab Bank, which under the Community Reinvestment Act must work to meet the needs of low- and moderate-income borrowers.
The coalition includes members representing the banks; Nevada Hand, a nonprofit affordable housing developer in Las Vegas; the City of Las Vegas; Henderson; and the Nevada Housing Division. Brewer, the coalition president, represents rural Nevada and will be the group's legislative liaison.
"One of the beauties of the coalition is I'll have 40 to 70 phone numbers I can call and ask them to show up," he said.
When the Legislature is out of session, the coalition has other goals.
"The purpose is to bring all the interested parties together. The first task is education," said Brewer. "And then advocacy at the state level."
The 80th Nevada Legislature begins Monday, Feb. 4, in Carson City.