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On Your Side: Ponderosa Hotel in Reno frequent target of health, safety complaints

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Dan Francis has lived in the Ponderosa Hotel for the past year. He says it's far from ideal.

"It's run down, it's got a roach problem, it's got a bed bug problem," Francis told us during an interview outside the Virginia Street property.

For those kind of living conditions, Francis pays $725 a month in rent. That's a good chunk of the salary he earns as a personal caregiver. He stays because he can't afford the security deposit and move-in costs most other apartments charge.

The Ponderosa is really Francis' only option.

"Any place that is renting, they're jacking all their rents up," he said.

Other residents, who did not want to be interviewed, have sent us photos showing what they say are filthy conditions inside the hotel. Everything from bug-infested mattresses to missing bathroom tiles.

The Washoe County Health District conducts routine inspections at least once a year at the Ponderosa and other properties like it. While there have been a number of complaints filed over the years, the Ponderosa is considered to be in compliance and up to code.

"We do a proactive inspection at least once a year and we do follow-up on any violation we notice," said Jim English, the Environmental Health Specialist Supervisor for the Washoe County Health District.

English says 18 out of the 165 rooms at the Ponderosa have been shut down because of violations that have not been addressed or corrected. The rest are considered to be safe and clean enough to live in.

We asked English directly if the hotel is in full compliance.

"Yes," he told us.

If someone does file a complaint, English says the Washoe County Health District always follow up to the get to the bottom of it.

"If we get a citizen complaint, we take it seriously," he said.

For now, as our housing crunch pushes prices higher and higher, the Ponderosa and other low-income hotels like it remain some peoples' best and only option.

Dan Francis is one of them.

"We're stuck, you can't get out," he said. "There's no housing available."

We did reach out to the owner of the Ponderosa, who tells News 4 he has proposed upgrading the hotel from a weekly rental property to a little bit of a higher-end studio apartment complex. But that is only a proposal to the city council at this point.

As for the Washoe County Health District, they will conduct their annual inspection of the property on November 3. We'll follow up at that point to let you know what that inspection turns up.

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