Nevada, particularly Las Vegas, is known for being an affordable place to live. It’s thought of as a place you could come and get a new job, buy a home…or at least find an affordable rental.
But that’s changing.
Las Vegas home prices are among the fastest rising in the country, and rents are skyrocketing, too. In the first quarter of this year, rents rose 5 percent, bringing the average to $1,069.
There are several different reasons why housing has become pricier in Nevada, according to Bill Robinson, an assistant professor of business at UNLV.
He said people want to move here, but builders have not kept up with demand.
"We tend to always be behind the curve," he said. "We've got people building and building and building, but not enough to keep up with the demand maybe and then housing prices are going to go up."
Another problem is that wages have not kept up with housing prices. Robinson said because the gaming industry has consolidated, there hasn't been competition for workers.
"We've seen really a decline in wages in the gaming industry over the last 15 years," he said.
While people around the country seem to be more and more concerned about a recession in the near future, Robinson doesn't think a recession will cause the kind of collapse in housing prices that was seen during the Great Recession.
The affordable housing problem has become so severe that Clark County is stepping in to try to help fill the void.
In August, the county approved bonding for $52.6 million to finance the conversion and renovation of 230 apartment units, turning them into affordable housing. It will also fund the construction of another 200 affordable apartment units in the far southwest valley.
Clark County Commissioner Marilyn Kirkpatrick told KNPR's State of Nevada that affordable housing has been an issue for a long time. She said the county became focused on affordable housing while trying to address the county's homeless issue.
"We took the initiative then to start looking about how we could maximize our current things that we had available to us," she said. "The county has been focused on that. We have also reached out to the private developers because I think there is some public-private partnerships that we could do that would beneficial for the entire community."
One thing the county could do, she said, was a community land trust that could help offset the price of land.
"In the next four to six months, you'll see some of those opportunities kind of come together where we can take some of the land that may be the county owns to offset [high land prices] so we can try to see if that does make a dent in the private sector," she said.
She is happy to see that the private sector and the nonprofit sector are working together to address the problem. Kirkpatrick said all sides are looking at some creative ways to solve the problem that is widespread.
According to Kirkpatrick, 80 percent of Nevadans pay more than 30 percent on housing costs. Paying 30 percent of income for housing costs is generally accepted rule of thumb for both renters and homeowners.
There are several nonprofit groups working to help people find homes that aren't taking more for their income. One is Nevada HAND, a group builds and manages affordable housing. It also provides residents with wraparound social services they may need to stay in those homes.
Greta Seidman is the director of communications for the group. She said there are a number of misconceptions when it comes to affordable housing.
"There is not a demographic that isn't affected by the affordable housing crisis in Nevada right now," she said.
Seidman said the properties her group manages operate at near full capacity at all times, and the people that use Nevada HAND's services range from caregivers to preschool teachers to casino workers.
Another nonprofit working to fix the affordable housing issue is Neighborhood Housing Services of Southern Nevada.
Executive Director Michelle Merced told KNPR's State of Nevada that the waitlist to get into the 150 units her group manages is huge.
"I think the biggest challenge for us nonprofits is a typical norm for somebody is to go through 211 [the community resources hotline number] and the demand was yesterday," she said.
She said people call the number and tell the operator they were already living in a car and they need services right now.
Merced said the nonprofits just cannot keep up with the demand.
Bill Robinson, assistant professor of business, UNLV; Marilyn Kirkpatrick, commissioner, Clark County Commission; Michelle Merced, executive director, Neighborhood Housing Services; Greta Seidman, director of communications, Nevada Hand
You won’t find a paywall here. Come as often as you like — we’re not counting. You’ve found a like-minded tribe that cherishes what a free press stands for. If you can spend another couple of minutes making a pledge of as little as $5, you’ll feel like a superhero defending democracy for less than the cost of a month of Netflix.