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High rent in Reno-Sparks is pushing people out

The Old Virginia Street Bridge crosses the Truckee River in downtown Reno, as seen at the Reno River Walk (Sinclair Broadcast Group)

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Home prices are high, so some people are choosing to rent instead. But they're not finding much relief there either. Rent is through the roof and not expected ease up.

Mary Berger is disabled and unable to work. She lives in a tiny one bedroom apartment at the Gateway Inn near Keystone Avenue and 7th Street. Her landlord just gave her notice that her rent will increase to $700 a month starting in May. She said it's the second increase this year.

"Two-hundred dollars in five months, I don't have it," Berger said.

Berger receives $701 of government assistance so she doesn't know how she'll pay her $700 rent every month.

"There's no possibility of me getting an increase in my income. No whatsoever in any shape of form. I can't even go work part-time," she said. "I think it's ridiculous. It's terrible, I think she's putting me in the street," she said.

Berger would like to move but when she went looking for another place to live she couldn't find anything better for less.

"They looked pretty bad. At least this place has all its doors and windows," she said.

This is the case all over town. Rent is going up everywhere.

"Rent growth has been unprecedented in the 10-15 percent range, so if rents were $1,000 a month last year, they're $1,100 to $1,150 this year," said Kevin Sigstad a broker with Remax Premier Properties.

A recent study by the National Low Income Housing Coalition says you'd need to make $18.26 an hour in Nevada to afford a two bedroom unit. You would have to work 89 hours a week making minimum wage.

Rent has been going up since 2012 and it hasn't slowed, the result of high demand.

"We went for such a long period of time without any construction and so we're playing catch-up. They're throwing up buildings as fast as they can. But it's not fast enough," Sigstad said.

There's only a 2 to 3 percent vacancy rate in the Truckee Meadows area. Sigstad said it's normally around 5 percent. The highest rent is in Midtown, Downtown and the University area, where demand is the highest.

He expects rent in the Reno Sparks area will continue to climb 8 to 15 percent every year for the foreseeable future. It's forcing people to move outside the area to Carson City or Fernley to afford rent.

"It will keep going up a lot, not little by little," Sigstad said.

But that doesn't help Jo Thompson. She's trying to find a new place for her granddaughter to rent. She currently pays $750 a month for a studio apartment that Thompson said is in a crummy part of town.

"The places they found are scroungy but the rent's so high. Just really horrible," Thompson said.

There are no rent control laws in Nevada to cap rent rates like there are in San Francisco and New York City. Sigstad said when rent controls are passed the building owners can quit investing money in the property, and it can lead to a decline in the maintenance and upkeep of the property.

As for Mary Berger, she hopes her landlord changes her mind so she doesn't end up on the street

"My next step is to talk to the manager and see if I can do a little longer before she does this," Berger said.

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