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Facing An Affordable Housing Crisis, Reno Looks To Build 1,000 New Homes In 120 Days

The city of Reno is trying to tackle the region's housing affordability crisis with a new housing development plan. (Scott Sonner/AP)
The city of Reno is trying to tackle the region's housing affordability crisis with a new housing development plan. (Scott Sonner/AP)
This article is more than 3 years old.

The city of Reno, Nevada, has approved an ambitious plan: construct 1,000 new homes in 120 days.

It’s part of a push to tackle the region's housing affordability crisis. The median home price in Reno city hit $420,500 earlier this year.

It's one of the least affordable cities in the country relative to median income. Reno Mayor Hillary Schieve says that can be partially attributed to the high rate of foreclosures and unemployment during the recession between 2007 and 2009.

Plus, Schieve says, Reno –– known as “The Biggest Little City in the World” –– has seen a boost of economic development. Since the median home price in Silicon Valley is around $1.6 million, she says there’s been an influx of tech companies, such as Tesla, Google, Apple and Amazon, and their workers moving to the city.

“For me, we can’t wait,” she says. “We need housing now and that's where we came up with the initiative 1,000 homes in 120 days.”

For the next four months, Reno is offering to delay developers' fees on new buildings with 30 or more units, hoping to entice builders currently put off by high infrastructure costs.

Developers’ fees include sewer and infrastructure payments, she says, which can be “$10,000 per unit per door.” The pilot plan will give developers the ability to hold off on initial payments and put the savings toward funding other construction.

Schieve says when developers apply to delay fees, the city council will lean toward favoring plans that include a mix of affordable workforce housing.

If the demand for housing is so high, why do developers need incentives to build? She says many in the building and construction sector were “burned” in the recession and have been waiting to get back into Reno’s expensive housing market.

But this isn’t a freebie for wealthy developers, she says, because the fees are not totally eradicated. The initially waived fees will be tacked onto the final amount at the end of construction.

“We will get every penny back,” Schieve says.

The plan mandates housing complexes need to be completed within 18 months. If a project is left unfinished –– also known as a “zombie project” –– Schieve says the city would put a lien on the property and own it.

She says in order for the city to survive another potential recession, it must diversify the types of industries it attracts.

“Reno was predominantly a gaming town and in the recession, we really relied heavily on gaming. One of the things that really made it hard for us to sort of climb back is that you have to diversify your portfolio like you would when you make investments,” she says.

Schieve hopes this incentive will bring in a variety of developments to an area with “a lot to offer,” such as an “absolutely sensational” climate, multiple skiing options, the world's tallest artificial climbing wall, and the scenic Lake Tahoe nearby.

Bringing in more arts, culture and food establishments to Reno, she says, are worthwhile investments that “make cities great.”

Chris Bentley produced and edited this interview for broadcast with Kathleen McKennaSerena McMahon adapted it for the web.

This segment aired on October 4, 2019.


Peter O'Dowd Senior Editor, Here & Now
Peter O’Dowd has a hand in most parts of Here & Now — producing and overseeing segments, reporting stories and occasionally filling in as host. He came to Boston from KJZZ in Phoenix.


Serena McMahon Digital Producer
Serena McMahon was a digital producer for Here & Now.



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