Senator wants better approach to Southern Nevada affordable housing

U.S. Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nev. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye

A slew of barriers block the expansion of affordable housing in Southern Nevada — rising rents, low inventory and private sources sitting untapped while thousands of people on wait lists for public and transitional housing.

And a lack of coordination between different agencies and jurisdictions means competition for the same grant dollars.

“The challenge I have found is how we come together, because we have so many people working on different aspects of it,” U.S. Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, D-NV, said at a roundtable discussion Tuesday on affordable housing with Southern Nevada stakeholders.

Cortez Masto plans to meet next with city and county managers to hone a regional approach to affordable housing.

“If I can get them to come together and they’re not fighting for the same pot of money, that’s the key,” Cortez Masto said.

Using prefabricated homes or storage containers can drastically slash construction costs for affordable housing projects, but getting local planning and zoning approval could prove more challenging.

On top of a lack of funding for affordable housing, local agencies encounter stigma when affordable housing projects come up. In Henderson, it’s difficult to find a place to develop affordable housing that won’t face public backlash, planner Andy Powell said.

Homeowners who say “we don’t want it in our backyard” are common at local planning commission meetings where Southern Nevada Housing Authority housing projects are up for approval, the authority’s interim director Amparo Gamazo said.

Meanwhile, the authority’s waiting list for public housing totals more than 14,000, Gamazo said.

“It would take 40 years for us to address our wait list,” Gamazo said.

Michael Mullin, CEO of housing nonprofit Nevada HAND, said developments with both affordable units and market-rate apartments could draw in private development dollars and place low-income people into “areas of opportunity.”

Tuesday’s roundtable was held at the new Lutheran Social Services building on Boulder Highway, part of a nonprofit campus that also includes Nevada HAND and Boys & Girls Clubs of Southern Nevada. The project drew from 10 funding sources, Mullin said.

Contact Jamie Munks at jmunks@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0340. Follow @Journo_Jamie_ on Twitter.

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