The Village on Sage is open, welcoming 216 people home (nonprofit spotlight)

Chris Askin

Chris Askin

The Grand Opening and symbolic welcome mat for the Village on Sage Street, a unique, dorm- style, bridge housing community, was laid on August 20.

The Village on Sage Street aspires to offer those who are struggling to afford rent in Reno with a safe, secure place to call their own, on their way to permanent housing.

The Community Foundation took on unprecedented roles to make this project happen in just 15 months.

Seeing new ways to solve entrenched problems

Rising rents in Reno and Sparks are effectively pushing out low-income earners and elderly residents out of individual apartments and weekly motels.

In April 2018, Reno developers Par Tolles and Allison Gorelick approached the Community Foundation with a radical idea — acquire some modular units and convert them into an affordable housing community near downtown Reno.

They had inspected the units, talked with Reno Assistant City Manager Bill Thomas, and determined the project was feasible — with the right partners.

A one-of-a-kind private/public/social partnership

The Village on Sage Street Leadership Team, from left: Chris Askin, Community Foundation of Western Nevada; Pat Cashell, Volunteers of America; Allison Gorelick, Gorelick Real Estate Advisors; Par Tolles, Tolles Development Company; Roy Halliburton, Q & D Construction; and Steve Aichroth, Nevada Housing Division.

The Village on Sage Street is a collaboration of private individuals and businesses, the City of Reno, Volunteers of America and the Community Foundation of Western Nevada.

The Community Foundation settled into the role of project lead and fundraiser, the City of Reno contributed four acres of suitable land, which will be held by the new Community Housing Land Trust; and Volunteers of America is operating the community. Private developers, contractors, businesses, foundations, Community Foundation donors, and generous community members all gave to make the Village on Sage Street a reality.

Innovative solutions require creativity — and bravery

Located between 4th Street and the railroad tracks east of downtown Reno, the Village on Sage Street is, in many ways, an experiment. Can we help 216 low-income individuals move to permanent, secure housing? Can we build a successful community model from the ground up quickly in order to make an immediate impact?

The Village on Sage Street came together — from idea to move-in — in just 15 months. The modular structures were previously used in Anchorage, Alaska, as a man camp for seasonal oil workers, then in mining camps in Wyoming, making acquisition of these tested units affordable and quick. A person earning $9 an hour will be able to afford the $400 monthly rent, on 30% or less of their income, achieve housing security and begin saving money to transition to permanent housing.

A unique quality of this unprecedented project is that with an occupancy of 90%, the Village on Sage will not require any outside funding for operations. To accomplish the goal of a self-paying community, 80% of the initial development costs must be contributed. The remaining 20% can be financed and paid off through rental incomes.

Inspired donors contributed up front, including donations of goods and services by contractors. These contributions and the City of Reno's donation of land for the community site have covered 46% of the cost. Thirty-four percent or $3.1 million remains to be raised.

Now that the campus is complete and people are moving in, please help us finish the funding of the Village on Sage Street. Join with the visionary donors and give to make this one-of-a-kind-housing option a gift to our community.

Please contribute to the Community Foundation of Western Nevada, Community Housing Land Trust. Give generously and offer to hundreds of vulnerable, hard-working people a way to meet their most important need — a safe and secure place to live. Contribute online at or call the Community Foundation at 775-333-5499.

The impact of Village on Sage Street goes beyond the 216 lives of its residents. It created and strengthened vital community relationships, bringing together many groups with a shared vision of a better Northern Nevada and the potential we have to do more good things together.

This article was written by Chris Askin, President and CEO of the Community Foundation of Western Nevada, which sponsors this content.


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