No easy housing fix, Carson City forum told

Affordable housing is a complex issue with no single solution, according to a panel of local experts.

“There is no magic bullet. It is going to involve a lot of things,” said Bill Brewer, executive director, Nevada Rural Housing Authority.

Brewer was part of event hosted by Sierra Nevada Forums at the Brewery Arts Center’s Performance Hall on Tuesday.

Brewer said nearly 2,000 households in Carson City spend 50 percent of their income on housing.

NRHA has 1,600 clients in rural Nevada, including 600 in Carson City, with vouchers to subsidize rent.

“For every 100 applicants, only 30 are finding housing,” said Brewer, so 70 applicants are losing the voucher for lack of available housing.

Frederick Steinmann, assistant research professor, University Center for Economic Development at the University of Nevada, Reno, said median home prices in Carson City rose 7.3 percent from 2015 to 2016 while rents increased 1.2 percent. At the same time, the median income rose by less than 1 percent, from $47,668 to $47,948.

“The demand we’re seeing is really driven by job growth,” said Aaron West, CEO, Nevada Builders Alliance. “That and policies of the state to the west driving retirees here.”

At the same time, there is a shortage of construction workers keeping a cap on development.

“This stagnation in the number of units we can effectively build is up against capacity from a labor perspective,” said West.

Construction labor costs have jumped 22 percent in the last two years, along with other construction costs. The cost of cement, for example, is up 50 percent, said West.

“One of the biggest issues is the cost of land, materials and labor, and of regulations, making it very difficult to build a product that is affordable,” said Brad Bonkowski, Carson City supervisor and Broker of Record, owner, NAI Alliance Carson City.

Lee Plemel, director, Carson City Community Development, said the city has roughly 2,500 residential units approved that should be built over the next 10 years. That includes 1,647 single-family houses and 987 multifamily units.

West said there is some hope in finding efficiencies in construction. He said a Reno-based company, for example, makes some fully-assembled housing parts that can expedite construction.

“You can build a house in three days instead of three weeks,” said West.


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