County awards $120 million to create and preserve 3,100 affordable housing units

By: - September 7, 2022 6:05 am

“There is a lot of work to be done, but we are thrilled about the county board’s decision,” said the president of Nevada HAND. (Photo: Ronda Churchill)

Clark County commissioners approved nearly $120 million in federal funding Tuesday that will create or rehabilitate about 3,100 units in efforts to address the affordable housing crisis. 

Many of the projects are aimed at housing for renters who earn between 50% to 60% of area median income, which Deputy County Manager Kevin Schiller said is between $28,000 and $49,000 a year. 

Like nearly all cities across the country, Southern Nevada is in the middle of a housing crisis, and lacks an estimated 85,000 affordable units for residents considered extremely low income and very low income earners.

Officials at the state and local level have been using dollars provided by the American Rescue Plan Act, a massive federal relief package that provided $6.7 billion in aid to Nevada governments, to try to address the shortage of housing.  

The funding approved Tuesday is expected to create 2,139 new units and rehabilitate 967 existing units. 

Among organizations awarded funding is the nonprofit Nevada HAND, which received around $36 million in funding for five projects to create and rehabilitate housing units focusing on families and seniors. 

Audra Hamernik, the president and CEO with Nevada HAND, said the funds will help the organization create 613 units.

“This funding will provide essential gap financing in the face of rising construction costs and supply chain challenges,” she said. “There is a lot of work to be done, but we are thrilled about the county board’s decision today. The reality is that developing and building high-quality affordable housing takes time, but we are excited to be adding hundreds of affordable homes in the next few years.”

Representatives for the domestic violence organization SafeNest, who submitted a proposal totalling $25 million, were disappointed they weren’t awarded part of the allocation. 

Liz Ortenburger, the CEO of SafeNest, told commissioners that the organization lacked enough beds to house survivors and that the organization spends between $30,000 and $70,000 every month on overflow housing.

The organization uses an assessment on how “lethal” a person’s situation is in order to determine eligibility.

“In order to get a bed at SafeNest, you need a 16 out of a 20 point lethality score,” she said. “That means you could sustain serious physical injury, and I don’t have a bed for you.” 

Ortenburger said she hoped to work with the county on its next round of funding. She also warned commissioners they needed to invest in housing for survivors in order to keep up with increases in domestic violence cases. 

“When the 2024 Super Bowl comes here and I don’t have access to overflow housing because the town is full, women, men and children who are raped will have no safe place to go except for homeless shelters,” she said. “In the entertainment capital of the world when we can do a $1.5 billion stadium, can we not invest in some of the other pieces as well?”

In April, the county created a Community Housing Fund and began to accept proposals for projects.

The county received about 50 applications in the initial screening process totalling nearly $361 million in projects, which were whittled down to 39 applications. 

The county approved funding for 30 projects. 

The criteria for approval, Schiller said, was based on several factors including the populations the projects were serving, developer experience, quality of the project, and location.

While a significant portion of the funding is going toward development of new units, several proposals are geared toward rehabilitating existing affordable housing. 

When developers create affordable housing, those units are designated as affordable for a certain amount of time, usually up to 30 years, but then revert to market rate.

“If it were not for these funds being allocated to rehab those existing affordable units, the affordability period would soon end on those units which means those projects or units might not be available to the community as affordable housing units,” said Clark County manager Yolanda King.  

The county is expected to go through another round of funding later this year. 

The Nevada Housing Division is also in the process of approving applications for projects geared toward the state’s housing crisis. 

Gov. Steve Sisolak pledged to direct $500 million in ARPA funding toward creating affordable housing units.

The division is expected to begin awarding allocations in September. 

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Michael Lyle
Michael Lyle

Michael Lyle (MJ to some) has been a journalist in Las Vegas for eight years.  He started his career at View Neighborhood News, the community edition of the Las Vegas Review-Journal. During his seven years with the R-J, he won several first place awards from the Nevada Press Association and was named its 2011 Journalist of Merit. He left the paper in 2017 and spent a year as a freelance journalist accumulating bylines anywhere from The Washington Post to Desert Companion. While he covers a range of topics from homelessness to the criminal justice system, he gravitates toward stories about race relations and LGBTQ issues. Born and mostly raised in Las Vegas, Lyle graduated from UNLV with a degree in Journalism and Media Studies. He is currently working on his master's in Communications through an online program at Syracuse University. In his spare time, Lyle cooks through Ina Garten recipes in hopes of one day becoming the successor to the Barefoot Contessa throne. When he isn’t cooking (or eating), he also enjoys reading, running and re-watching episodes of “Parks and Recreation.” He is also in the process of learning kickboxing.

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