“If I’m right, and the people do support it, we’re going to be addressing this in the session,” Sisolak said. (Photo: Dana Gentry)
Gov. Steve Sisolak says a proposed ballot measure championed by Culinary Local 226 could lead to legislative action on rent control.
“It’s going to be interesting how this plays out on the ballot,” Sisolak said during an interview after a Thursday morning rally at North Las Vegas City Hall, where Culinary members prepared to turn in thousands of signatures gathered in support of a measure to limit rent increases to a maximum of 5% or the cost of living, whichever is less. “I think there’s an awful lot of support for this. And if I’m right, and the people do support it, we’re going to be addressing this in the session.”
Nevada is suffering an affordable housing crisis. The median price of a home in Las Vegas in May was $482,000, up 25% from a year ago, according to Las Vegas Realtors. The median price of a home in the Reno/Sparks area was $605,000, up 23% from last year.
Rents in North Las Vegas have increased by almost 30% since 2019, according to the Culinary, which says its Neighborhood Stabilization measure is needed to keep residents from being “pushed out of their homes” by Wall Street investors.
Median hourly wages in Southern Nevada rose 5% from 2019 to 2021, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
“Any initiative to cap rents has never provided sound and effective solutions, and the Culinary Union’s refusal to meet with the rental housing industry will negatively impact North Las Vegas, its residents and its economic diversification efforts,” Susy Vasquez of the Nevada Apartment Association said in a statement. “We realize that rents have been increasing faster than incomes and that many Nevadans are struggling to pay their bills. Today’s rapid inflation adds uncertainty for Nevadans, and for the entire rental housing industry.”
“We are starting in North Las Vegas, but make no mistake – this is a statewide initiative,” Clark County Commissioner William McCurdy told union members at the rally.
Sisolak said he believes local government officials, including his former colleagues on the Clark County Commission, can institute rent control, a right previously believed to be in the purview of state lawmakers alone, thanks to Dillon’s Rule, a concept named for Judge John F. Dillon, an Iowa Supreme Court justice who ruled in the 1860s that local governments, as agencies of the state, possess only those powers granted to it by the state.
Nevada is a Dillon’s Rule state, but in 2015, a legislative measure relaxed the state’s grip on local governments, granting them the power to act on issues of local concern.
“I do believe they have the ability to do this at the county commission. Given that opportunity we’ll see if they can run with it,” Sisolak said.
The governor said “everything is on the table” when it comes to affordable housing. He did not rule out legislation imposing requirements on developers to build affordable housing components in exchange for the right to build.
“We’re going to have to address this issue, clearly,” he said. “I don’t know all the answers.”
The Culinary Union says long-time residents and senior citizens on fixed incomes are turning to public assistance or being evicted from their homes in North Las Vegas following rent increases averaging 30% since 2019. Union officials say rising rents make saving for a down-payment impossible. Additionally, students and schools suffer because of turnover.
“You deserve a better quality of life than we’re giving you right now, but I promise you, we’re going to do better,” Sisolak said to children attending the Culinary rally. “You deserve better.”
Sisolak noted his administration earmarked $500 million in pandemic relief funding to be used for affordable housing, including money to retrofit homes of seniors with ambulatory issues.
“I’m not gonna act like we’re done,” he said. “We’re going to build 1,700 units but we need 80,000 units in the state to meet our needs.”
The governor decried “out of state speculators coming in buying up homes in our neighborhoods and raising the rent and raising the rents and raising the rents,” adding “each and every one of you should have a chance at the American Dream.”
Rep. Steven Horsford, a Democrat whose congressional district includes North Las Vegas, told union members he’s introducing federal legislation – the Housing Oversight, Mitigation and Exploitation Act (HOME Act) to assess penalties against investors who exploit renters and put money into a fund to be used for affordable housing.
Horsford said investors are targeting minority communities.
The Washington Post reported in April that the majority of Black and Latino families in America are renters. More than 7,000 members of the Culinary Union live in North Las Vegas, according to the union. Of those, 63% are Latino and 18% are Black.
“It’s going to hold those out-of-state corporate investors responsible for gouging my constituents,” Horsford said.
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