Realtors oppose tax to fight homelessness

rousted in corridor
Police rousting homeless people near Las Vegas Boulevard earlier this year. Nevada Current file photo.
rousted in corridor
Police rousting homeless people near Las Vegas Boulevard earlier this year. Nevada Current file photo.

Ahead of the 2019 Nevada Legislative session, the committee of taxation submitted a bill, on behalf of the City of Las Vegas, to increase the real property transfer tax and add a surcharge to sewer services in attempt to fund homeless services and affordable housing. The bill already has opposition from Nevada Realtors.

“We support efforts to house and help homeless people in Nevada and are always eager to work with local and state government leaders on such issues,” Nevada Realtors President Heidi Kasama said in a statement to Nevada Current. “However, we don’t believe this is the solution. Nevada Realtors oppose such an increase in this tax, which would raise housing costs at a time when affordability is already a concern and home prices in Southern Nevada are increasing faster than almost every other city in the nation.”

Southern Nevada has been struggling to address its regional homeless population. About 6,500 people experiencing homelessness on any given night, and the Department of Housing and Urban Development ranked the Las Vegas area as having the eighth highest homeless population for a metropolitan area in 2017.

The city has focused funding into the Courtyard Homeless Resources Center — located within the homeless corridor off Foremaster Lane and Las Vegas Boulevard — as a way to contend with the issue.

During an October City Council meeting, officials said the regional system to deal with homelessness is underfunded. Less than 2 percent of the city’s overall budget goes toward homeless services.

If passed, the tax increase and sewer charge could generate an estimated $20 million.

At least $5 million would go directly to the city through the sewer surcharge, which would be increased by about 8 percent, or $22, a year. The bill would also increase the real property transfer tax in Clark County, which is currently $2.55 per $500 of property value, by 25 cents, or an estimated $111 on an average sale.

The city was unsure the amount it would specifically receive from this, but thinks regionally it would bring in about $15 million.

Homing in on Clark County, the tax increase would only be imposed on counties with more than 700,000 people. The bill requires the county and all cities within to use the money specifically for homeless services and affordable housing.

Dan Kulin, a spokesman for Clark County, said the county is aware of the bill but doesn’t have a position on it.

Kasama added that the Nevada Realtors “believe broad-based taxes are preferable to industry-specific taxes such as this.”

The bill will go before the Assembly Committee on Taxation, which is chaired by Assemblywoman Dina Neal. The legislative session starts in February. 

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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