Nevada Legislature, protect homeowners from HOAs

“Unionized guest room attendants, cocktail and food servers, porters, bellmen, cooks, bartenders, laundry and kitchen workers can buy their own home in Nevada, and that’s something our 86-year-old union is incredibly proud of.” (Photo by Nicole Geri on Unsplash)

In 2007, the Culinary Union won a new benefit for union members during contract negotiations – the Culinary and Bartenders Housing Fund. 

In the 14 years since the benefit was established, the Housing Fund has helped over 1,700 Culinary Union members buy their first homes and has provided more than $12.5 million in down payment assistance and closing costs for workers.

That means unionized guest room attendants, cocktail and food servers, porters, bellmen, cooks, bartenders, laundry and kitchen workers can buy their own home in Nevada, and that’s something our 86-year-old union is incredibly proud of. 

With the Housing Fund, Culinary Union members can access comprehensive support from homebuyer education to pre-purchase counseling, and workers can get up to $20,000 in assistance to purchase their first home. The Housing Fund also helps Culinary Union members with continued support by offering post-purchase workshops and foreclosure prevention.

The COVID-19 pandemic has hit hospitality workers, including Culinary Union members and their families hard. 

At the height of the crisis, 98% of Culinary Union members were furloughed. Now, more than a year after the COVID-19 shutdown in Nevada, still 50% of members the Culinary Union represents are not back to work. While hospitality workers are slowly returning to work, tens of thousands workers are still unemployed and struggling with housing insecurity.

Throughout the last year, we knew how important it was to elect political representatives who will support issues important to working families. In 2020, the Culinary Union delivered Nevada for Biden/Harris and drove unprecedented turnout with the largest political team statewide who knocked on half a million doors – during a pandemic – including the doors of half of the Black and Latinx voters in Nevada. 

Delivering Nevada, taking back the Senate in Georgia (hundreds of UNITE HERE members – including Culinary Union canvassers – went to Georgia after Election Day to support get out the vote efforts), and defeating Trump were priorities to Culinary Union members because workers know what is possible when we ensure increased participation in the political process and transform the organizing landscape. 

President Biden’s $1.9 Trillion American Rescue Plan included historic protections for working families including 100% COBRA, $1,400 checks, expanded and extended unemployment insurance, vaccination funding, funding to reopen schools, and increased funding for rental and housing assistance.

Since March 2020, the Culinary Union worked with Governor Steve and partners to successfully advocate for several eviction moratoria and worked with our Housing Fund to help workers apply for CARES Act and CHAP funding to keep working families in their homes at a time when staying home for Nevada was the safest place to be. The Culinary Union’s Housing Fund will continue to support workers applying for financial assistance with new funds from the American Rescue Plan. 

In the last year, there has been no other organization in Nevada that has done more to support working families during this unprecedented crisis than the Culinary Union. The pandemic showed how essential the union is to the stability and wellbeing of working families and  how crucial it is that the union is an aggressive advocate in the centering of workers in federal and state policy 

Nevada is in a housing crisis that has only been exacerbated by a global pandemic. That’s why the Culinary Union is a member of the Nevada Housing Justice Alliance which is tackling eviction reform, industry regulation, and discrimination prevention for renters and homeowners in the Nevada Legislature this session. 

Every Nevadan deserves an affordable and stable home, especially because home is the safest place from the COVID-19 pandemic. Working families need stronger protections, unfortunately, there are still too many Nevadans who are facing housing insecurity or who have lost their home during this pandemic. 

It is shameful that during a pandemic, some Nevadans have either had their homes foreclosed or are in danger of losing their homes – because of unpaid Home Owner Association (HOA) fees.

Here are the stories of two furloughed Culinary Union members who are in danger of losing their homes because of unpaid HOA fees:

Fabiana, a furloughed buffet cook: “I owe my HOA $900. I’m afraid that they will come after me at anytime. I don’t know where my family and I will go if they foreclose on us and put us out on the streets. I ask Nevada politicians to please not allow us to be foreclosed on during the middle of a pandemic.”

Jose, a furloughed food runner: “In March was laid off from my job because of the pandemic. I have been paying the mortgage for my house for 18 years. If I can’t pay my $806 mortgage payments each month I don’t know how I would be able to afford an apartment if I was foreclosed on and evicted. Nevada politicians, we need help. We need a real solution right now…we really need some assistance to be able to stay in our homes during a pandemic.”

HOAs should not have the power to foreclose on homes for many reasons, including conflicts of interest and racial discrimination. Taking the power of foreclosure out of the hands of HOAs will create a more fair and transparent process for homeowners to stay in their homes and Senate Bill 144 accomplishes that.

The Culinary Union applauds state Sen. Pat Spearman for her leadership and urges the Nevada Legislature to support working families who are struggling with housing insecurity and pass Senate Bill 144.

Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.

Geoconda Argüello-Kline
Geoconda Argüello-Kline

Geoconda Argüello-Kline serves as the Secretary-Treasurer for the Culinary Workers Union, Local 226.