Dana Gentry

(Nevada Current) Democratic Assembly Majority Leader Sandra Jauregui told lawmakers Monday her measure requiring local governments to track housing developments and expedite the application and zoning processes “will bring more homes online” in Nevada.

“And with an increased supply and inventory, whether that’s affordable housing units, market rate units, apartment units or homes for people to buy, the more supply we have, the more that helps with affordability of homes.”

Assembly Bill 213, known as the Housing Modernization Act, allows local governments to offer developer incentives, such as increased density or multi-story development, in the interest of augmenting affordable housing stock and taking advantage of infill opportunities.

“This is something that local governments have leeway to do,” attorney Josh Hicks, representing the Nevada Home Builders Association, told lawmakers. “So different local governments might have different financial incentives, and they might be fee waivers or things like that.”

The Nevada Contractors’ Association, which represents 150,000 contractors, voiced support, as did the Nevada Association of Realtors.

CEOs of the Southern Nevada Home Builders’ Association and the Builders’ Association of Northern Nevada testified in support of the measure, which seeks to expand inventory by reducing the costs of administrative delays.

“I’ve seen firsthand what delays can do to the cost of housing,” said Jauregui, who is a sales executive with a real estate title insurance firm.

Joanna Jacob of Clark County testified against the measure, which the county said would require ten additional planners to meet the bill’s three-day timeline for reviewing applications. The biennial cost to the county is estimated at about $2.5 million.

Jacob testified the county already has strict timelines to get applications to the planning commission or Board of County Commissioners.

“That timeline is very robust,” she said, adding a three-day timeline was proposed “at a time when we had 100 planners working in Clark County. During COVID, we got down to nine planners. … Today we have 18 planners doing that work.”

Jacob added the county has had “a senior planner application open under continuous recruitment for more than 700 days.”

Washoe County also opposed the measure, but was unable to estimate the measure’s costs to the government.  Washoe County also used the opportunity to advertise its job openings for planners. The cities of Las Vegas and Reno also made note of their shortage of planners while testifying in neutral.

Market demands?

Nevada has 485,850 renter households, according to Christine Hess of the Nevada Housing Coalition, and more than half (52.3%) pay more than a third of their income for rent, a threshold that renders housing unaffordable.

Nevada Hand, the state’s largest non-profit housing developer, testified in support of the measure, as did a number of progressive and community organizations.

“We are supporting all of the bills on housing this session,” Annette Magnus, executive director of Battle Born Progress, told the Current. “I appreciate the bill has language about infill.”

AB 213 defines affordable housing as that which a household earning up to 120% of area median income can qualify to rent. Market rate housing is defined as housing for a household with gross monthly income exceeding that which would allow it to qualify for affordable housing.

Area median household income, according to the Dept. of Housing and Urban Development, was $81,734 in the Las Vegas area in 2022, and $96,526 in the Reno area.

A household with earnings of $80,000 should pay no more than a third ($26,666) in annual rent.

While demand for housing has pushed prices upwards at all levels, Nevada has a critical shortage of low-income housing, according to the National Low Income Housing Coalition.

Nevada has 95 rental units available for households earning 100% of AMI. But for extremely low-income households – those earning 30% or less of AMI – Nevada has 17 units available per 100 renter households.

The state lacks about 84,000 rental homes for extremely low-income renters, those earning about $26,500 for a household of four.

Almost all of the apartment units constructed in Reno (94%) and Henderson (93%) during the last decade are categorized as luxury units, according to an analysis of data compiled by the market research firm Yardi Matrix, a finding that stands in stark contrast to Nevada’s ranking as the state with the fewest low-income units per low-income households.

Jauregui did not respond to questions about why her legislation lacks a low-income housing component, given the greater demand for less-expensive rental units.

The bill also:

  • Requires cities and counties to report annually to the state on the status of housing projects and post the information on their websites.
  • Requires cities and counties to publish on their websites a list of applications to build residential housing
  • Requires local governments to maintain an inventory of housing conditions and needs for families and individuals, regardless of income level, and an inventory of subsidized housing
  • Requires cities and counties to report the present and future needs for affordable housing as well as any impediments to its development.

The Senate Government Affairs Committee took no action on the measure.