Construction takes place on an apartment complex in the west Monday, Aug. 8, 2022, in Las Vegas. (Ronda Churchill/Nevada Current)
The thousands of new affordable housing units Nevada is funding through the American Rescue Plan Act are still, at best, 18 months away from being available for rent, but developers say they are on track and working as fast as they can to help alleviate a housing crisis.
Nevada in October awarded $250 million in affordable housing funding.
Among the groups awarded dollars late last year were nonprofit developer Nevada HAND, Blind Center of Nevada, Washoe Housing Authority and the sober living community the Empowerment Center. They are expected to create about 2,800 new units throughout the state
Steve Aichroth, administrator of the Nevada Housing Division, which oversees the allocation of these funds, said projects are moving along as expected with most finalizing agreements to begin construction in the coming months.
“The bulk of them will take about two years –18 to 24 months – from the time the agreement is fully executed,” he said. “A little faster in Southern Nevada because they don’t have to deal with winters like we have to in Northern Nevada.”
The state, along with cities and counties, have used ARPA funds to invest in the massive shortage of housing units.
The National Low Income Housing Coalition estimates Nevada is short almost 84,000 affordable units for extremely low income renters, or those earning 30% or less of the area median income.
Former Gov. Steve Sisolak pledged to direct $500 million of ARPA funds to address the housing crisis, with $300 million specifically directed toward developing multifamily units.
Another $130 million was allocated to preserve existing affordable housing to prevent units from converting to market rates, $30 million to increase homeownership, and $40 million for land acquisition.
The housing division received about $2.5 billion in requests for new development projects.
“Out of the amount of funding in the new development, 2,800 new affordable units and 1,800 will serve 50% of AMI or below,” Aichroth said. “It’s the lion’s share going to help those populations.”
Among the projects that received funds is Nevada HAND, which received about $51 million to develop four projects in Southern Nevada.
“The beginning of 2025 we will begin seeing these come online, and over that 12 to 18 months we will start seeing people move into those units,” said Waldon Swenson, the vice president of corporate affairs for Nevada HAND. “We want to make sure we can build as responsible within the rules but as quickly as possible because we know the community needs these resources.”
Nevada HAND has developed 35 properties throughout Southern Nevada and maintains affordable units with average monthly rent of $789.
Though they develop new projects each year, the need for affordable units is never ceasing, Swenson said. Anytime Nevada HAND is in the news, he added, “we probably get 1,000 inquiries.”
“On an average day, in the hundreds” each day, he said. “We have seen firsthand that Southern Nevada, and Nevada at large, is in the midst of an affordable housing crisis.”
Despite a growing need, Swenson said there are lots of obstacles to creating affordable housing from zoning issues to the availability of land.
At the end of the day, he said the biggest hurdle is financing.
With its ARPA funds, Nevada HAND is developing 565 units. HAND is simultaneously developing other affordable housing units using other funds. Swenson said altogether the organization has 2,278 units under development or in the planning process.
Swenson said they will finalize agreements on three projects in the next few months that will bring more affordable housing throughout the valley: Stewart Pines will add 178 senior units near downtown Las Vegas, a Buffalo and Cactus complex will add 125 senior units in the Southwest, and another 118 senior units will be at the Buena Vista Springs complex in North Las Vegas.
There is also a 144-unit family complex, Sunrise Ranch near Boulder Highway and Gibson Road, in the planning process.
‘If you don’t start somewhere…’
Todd Imholte, president of the Blind Center of Nevada, said 95% of their clients live below the poverty level, surviving on up to $1,000 a month in Social Security benefits.
As rents have spiked since 2020, he’s seen more people become housing insecure and experience homelessness. There were few options for people to go.
“We found in one example that $900 for a one bedroom had gone up to $1,300 after Covid,” he said. “The affordability for market rate rents for someone living off Social Security is just impossible.”
Imholte even contacted a nearby affordable housing complex to see about availability and learned there was a 2,300-person waitlist.
“We found out we had 35 people from the Blind Center on the waiting list,” he said. “Many of these people it would be many years”.
The complex they plan to construct, which will be located next door to the Blind Center, would offer 100 units of permanent supportive housing, which include rental subsidies, wrap-around services and case management for those in need. In order to qualify, people have to be below 40% of AMI.
The project costs about $30 million. In addition to the $15 million from state ARPA funds, Imholte said Clark County along with the cities of Henderson, Las Vegas and North Las Vegas contributed ARPA funds, which covered the entire project.
Imholte said they are in the process of selecting a general contractor.
“The project will probably break ground in January of 2024,” he said. “We will finish the construction in about 16 to 18 months. We are looking at July 2025 for the project (completion).”
Even though construction is months away, the complex already has a 290 person interest list.
Imholte is already devising a plan to build another building with 100 to 200 more units if he can secure additional funding.
“This doesn’t provide an immediate solution to the problem, and that’s the one challenge we have,” he said. “If you don’t start somewhere you will never get there. We have to get moving.”
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