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243K Nevadans pay 30% of income on rent. This bill wants to change that

Associated Press

Nearly 243,000 Nevadans are paying more than 30% of their income on rent, which matches the federal government’s definition of the affordable housing threshold.

These are some of the latest federal figures Nevada state Sen. Edgar Flores (D-Las Vegas) cited during Wednesday’s government affairs committee discussion on a housing affordability bill he’s sponsoring, Senate Bill 371.

“We have a lot of human beings that are desperate for us to take action. And part of taking action is us providing the tools and clarifying the tools that already exist, to do what is best for them," Flores said.

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In 2015, the Nevada Legislature attempted to address the issue of affordable housing. At that time, there were two very different concepts, Home Rule and Dillon's Rule.

Home Rule allows local municipalities to decide what to do on issues, like affordable housing. Dillon's Rule means local jurisdictions must get permission from the legislature before making housing policy decisions.

The legislature’s legal counsel, Asher Killian, explained Nevada adopted a modified Dillon's Rule.

“The state has said local governments can do things relating to matters of local concern without permission from the state. That’s the state giving blanket approval for local governments to do things relating to matters of local concern,” Killian said.

Opponents argued about the possibility of cross-jurisdictional confusion, which Killian and Flores said is already addressed in this bill. But the biggest point of contention was the inclusion of rent control.

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“The realtors consider rent control to be a flawed housing policy that diminishes housing values, discourages the production of new rental units and can lead to a reduction of available rental units," said Azim Jessa with the Nevada Realtors Association.

Rent control negatively affects the housing inventory by accelerating deterioration and loss of existing housing, Jessa added.

Both sides agreed on other options like deincentivizing out of state investment for rental units. Ultimately, Flores offered removing the term rent control from the bill.

“I added the language 'without limitation' to 'rent control' because I wanted those discussions to occur. I wanted to put special emphasis on it. But, if we remove without limitation to rent control and the bill just reads, 'may enact any measure related to affordable housing,' and our realtors have said they would agree with that bill. Then, I am willing to work with you and make that happen," Flores said.

A decision expected soon as the legislature winds down.

Yvette Fernandez is the regional reporter for the Mountain West News Bureau. She joined Nevada Public Radio in September 2021.