RENO, Nev. (News 4 & Fox 11) — When Reno voters go to the polls, the housing crisis and who has the best plan to fix it, will be on the minds of many.
Reno Mayor Hillary Schieve and her opponent, businessman Eddie Lorton sat down recently with News Four's Shelby Sheehan to talk about what they think is the best path to bring more affordable housing to Reno.
When it comes to housing, there is one thing these two individuals agree on.
The fact Reno has a serious problem when it comes to everyone in the city being able to keep a roof over their head.
About 4,000 people, working class families, seniors and disabled are living in week-to-week hotels, many of them on the verge of becoming homeless because they simply cannot afford rent.
Most experts agree, an economic boom, an influx of Californians moving east and a labor shortage following the recession have all helped to push the "Biggest Little City" into a big housing crunch.
"The problem has become so significant that we all have to fix it as a region." says Schieve.
Schieve says the city council has tried to be aggressive on several fronts to create more affordable housing.
It's donated land on Sage Street for the new dorm project, created public/private partnerships for veterans and senior housing and has been working with the Reno Housing Authority to help qualifying residents with rent.
The council also gave the green light to Stonegate, a massive housing development near Cold Springs.
"Inclusionary housing is very important so each project that comes into the city of Reno, we would make a certain percentage affordable, so you are not just putting affordable housing in one part of the city."
The mayor says the city is also working to scale back some requirements for affordable housing developers when it comes to things like sidewalks and sewer fees paid up front.
"So if we can put them on the back end of a project and they can make payments it becomes a lot more attractive."
New projects like Vintage at the Crossings, Steamboat by Vintage and the Plaza on 4th Street have all enjoyed some of those building cost reductions.
Schieve's opponent in the mayoral race Eddie Lorton doesn't feel as positive about the moves the city is making.
"They tore down all the hotels and that displaced more people," says Lorton.
Lorton is referring to the Jacobs Entertainment Group, a development company that owns dozens of properties along 4th street and has demolished 5 weekly motels.
The company just announced a renovation project of the Crest Inn called Renova Flats that will be 46 units with 10 of those for seniors. There are still questions about what will replace the motel sites.
"So it made the housing problem worse and the homeless issue worse as well."
Lorton says instead of the city donating property like it did on Sage Street, in this economic upswing, the city should be selling off millions of dollars of city owned surplus properties and paying down its debt.
"Developers can come in and buy it and build with infill development with everything in place that accelerates the process."
He says with police, fire and sewer already in place, infill development is a quicker more tax payer friendly way to create affordable housing.
Lorton is critical of projects like Stonegate too.
"They just did a master plan and then a month later changed it for Stonegate that's an irresponsible development plan they changed it for Stonegate, I call that urban sprawl."
He doesn't support trying to lower the upfront costs for developers either and sees that strategy as pushing the cost on the consumers who will buy or rent the units.
"Usually they pay for infrastructure, sidewalks, roads and then they donate it back to the city. That's been the pattern. Now all of a sudden they want to let them pay later, really favorable to the developer."
Mayor Schieve says the city of Reno has helped to facilitate adding 1600 units to the market and is optimistic about continuing the work to make Reno more affordable.
"We need all types of product on the market, that's the only way you can stabilize a market by bringing in more inventory."
Lorton is more skeptical of too much development.
"I think there needs to be development to a certain extent, but responsible development."
For more information on current affordable housing projects, you can visit the city of Reno has a resource website at reno.gov/HOUSING.