In Nevada, requests for affordable housing project five times program’s funding
Michael Lyle/Nevada Current
The Nevada Housing Division told lawmakers this week it is reviewing $2.5 billion in requests for projects seeking to address the state’s affordable housing crisis, an amount that far exceeds the $500 million investment promised by the governor earlier this year.
The division provided the Interim Finance Committee, which approved the $250 million of the half-billion dollar pledged funding in April, an update of the 234 applications submitted in the initial review process in May.
Not all proposals met the needed criteria to move forward to a formal application process.
“Of the 234, 180 pre-applications have been approved and moved on to the second round, which is the full application process,” said Michael Holliday, chief financial officer with the Nevada Housing Division. “It’s a much more involved process with much more documentation required at that point.”
The division is expected to finish reviewing applications in August and award allocations in September. The governor’s office said it planned to ask the finance committee for the remaining $250 million in the fall.
Both Democratic and Republican members of the finance committee previously expressed concerns regarding legislative oversight of the housing investment.
That continued Tuesday when Republican Assemblywoman Robin Titus questioned how the committee reviewing projects was selected and wondered why the group didn’t include those experiencing homelessness or seniors.
Titus was one of three Republicans who opposed the committee approving the $250 million in April.
“I see nobody from the private sector on this committee on how to award these grants,” she said.
The seven member committee in charge includes Holliday along with Democratic Assemblywoman Sandra Jauregui, who is also a real estate agent; Kristin Cooper with Clark County Social Service; Christine Hess, the executive director or Nevada Housing Coalition, which consists of social service providers and developers; Brooke Page with the Corporation for Supportive Housing; Dena Schmidt, the administrator with the Nevada Aging and Disability Services Division; and Steve Aichroth, the administrator for Nevada Housing Division
Jauregui disappointed housing justice advocates in 2021 when she failed to give a hearing to a bill that offered modest tenant protections. The bill was opposed by housing industry groups.
Holliday said everyone on the committee is “experts in the field” and would be able to “score neutrally across the board.”
“It was going to be difficult to have someone from those lines of private sector, developers for sure, because a lot of them would be applying,” Holliday said. “I think the level of expertise required, especially for the financial sections of the applications, would be difficult for someone who isn’t in this industry or works in this field.”
Nevada, which has been dealing with a housing crisis for years, lacks an estimated 105,000 affordable housing units.
The state’s greatest deficit is housing for extremely low-income renters earning less than 30% of area median income. Estimates from state and national groups say Nevada is 84,000 units short.
During the state of the state speech in February, Gov. Steve Sisolak announced he would dedicate $500 million of American Rescue Plan Act funding to go toward the affordable housing crisis:
The state launched the “Home Means Nevada” initiative in April to start screening proposals.
Projects were broken down into four categories to align with funding priorities – developing multifamily housing, preserving affordable housing, increasing homeownership and home rehabilitation, and land acquisition.
Of the dedicated funding, $300 million was directed toward developing new housing units.
Holliday said there were 140 applications for developing multi-family housing submitted to the state in May. Of that, 112 moved into the formal application process: 67 from Clark County, 33 from Washoe County and 12 from the rural counties.
Clark County has also allocated $130 million of its share of ARPA dollars toward affordable housing.
“We’ve also been engaging in weekly conversations with Clark County discussing their community housing fund and how it can interact with the Home Means Nevada initiative to make sure we can leverage both sets of funding to make sure we get as much affordable housing development as we can,” he said.
Democratic Assemblywoman Maggie Carlton asked if there was any information for how many projects dealt with seniors.
“One thing that I’m hearing four or five times a day is from seniors that are having a very tough time paying their rent because the rents are going up and it’s going to be more than the money they are bringing in on their fixed income,” she said.
Holliday wasn’t able to provide a breakdown, but said he could before the August finance committee meeting.
The state also pledged for at least 20% of the funds to go toward projects that build permanent supportive housing programs and serve populations who make less than 30% of area median income.
Holliday didn’t provide information on that goal.
The state is putting $130 million into preserving existing affordable housing and preventing units from converting back to market rate.
The division received 40 initial applications in May but is currently moving forward with 38 proposals, including 19 in Clark County, 17 in Washoe County and 2 in the rural counties.
For land acquisition, to which the state directed $40 million of funding, there were 20 initial applications, with 15 moving to the final review.
Applications focusing on homeownership and rehabilitation received 20 initial applications, with 15 moving forward to the final review. The state is putting $30 million toward each category.
There were eight proposals focused on Clark County, one from Washoe County, five for rural Nevada and one statewide application.
Holliday said while the committee is working on getting through applications for homeownership and rehabilitation, they are prioritizing new development and housing preservations.
“Those projects will take a lot longer to come to fruition so we want to get a head start on those,” he said.