About 200 construction-related professionals gathered Wednesday, Sept. 2 for the Builders Association of Northern Nevada’s 2015 Housing Forum and panel discussion.
Bringing a variety of perspectives to the table discussion on the future of housing in the region were panelists Bruce Breslow, director of the Nevada Department of Business and Industry; Perry Di Loreto, Di Loreto Homes; Ron Smith, Sparks City councilman; and Dwight Millard, branch manager with Academy Mortgage Corporation.
The foundation of the discussion was the expectation of dramatic growth in jobs and population throughout the region in the next few years, which will bring both challenges and benefits.
It’s nothing new to Di Loreto who began in the construction industry in 1972.
“We in this business have to recognize that 10 years ago, 11 years ago, we were in the very same situation and experiencing exponential growth,” Di Loreto said.
“I’ve been through in 40 years, five serious (economic) swings. What’s going on now is different; it is vastly different.”
He cited the lack of speculators who created the “false economy” that led to the recession, and more responsible construction currently underway.
Placing a drag on growth is a lack of regional vision, the panelists said.
“We’re all in this together,” Di Loreto said. “We need to elevate the discussion. Have respect for the regional level.”
Sparks Councilman Smith said that many of the regional committees he sits on have members who “can’t put their regional hats on” and work toward regional solutions.
Among the regional challenges are transportation and education.
Breslow noted the need for transportation out to the Tahoe-Reno Industrial Center, where many of the new jobs will be. Since the workers will mostly be residents of Washoe County, but the center itself sits in Storey County, it needs regional funding.
The region will also need new schools constructed and existing schools fixed and expanded, Di Loreto said.
Education needs to be part of the smart growth process, Smith said. “I’ve never met anybody who doesn’t want education for our youths” but funding is routinely voted down. “We’ve got to get it dealt with.”
Government can be a help to economic growth, but it can also hinder.
“There’s a lot of creative things you can do, but we’ve got to keep government out of the way,” Breslow said, adding that builders need to make their voices heard. “Stick together in this when you need things done.”
Millard cited the nature of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, created in 2010 for consumer protection. But its rules can be hard to negotiate and can trip up unwary contractors, he said.
“The main goal is to make sure there’s a level playing field and everyone is playing by the same rules,” he said.
Contractors as well as governmental bodies and residents need to respect water in our desert environment, panelists said. There is enough for growth, but that doesn’t mean it should be wasted.
“In a desert, you don’t let water run down the street,” Di Loreto said.
His company’s Damonte Ranch developments use reclaimed water for common landscaping and residents love it, he said. New homeowners in the development often choose to go the same route.
Breslow noted the increased use of reclaimed water for parks, landscaping and golf courses.
He also mentioned the Truckee River Operating Agreement with the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe ends 40 years of lawsuits and will provide a more stable water supply for the Truckee Meadows.
As yet, loan companies are not seeing an influx of customers who work for the big companies like Tesla and Switch, but more are coming from California and the East Coast, Millard said.
“It’s an exciting time,” Millard said. “I’m looking forward to the next 5-10 years. Embrace it. We will overcome the obstacles.”