Housing crisis, homelessness solutions take center stage for Nevada legislature
LAS VEGAS, Nev. (FOX5) - Nevada’s housing crisis and homelessness are among the legislative priorities this session with a slew of bills headed for the Assembly and Senate floors, setting off a debate about whether these policies meet thousands of struggling Nevadans’ needs, or are government overreach with unintended consequences.
The following bills were initiated by Democratic lawmakers and passed out of their respective committees by the April 14 deadline, guaranteeing a floor debate within the two chambers.
CAPS ON RENT RAISES
The Neighborhood Stabilization Act would tie rent increases to the state’s cost-of-living index for the area surrounding a unit. That number would be determined by the state’s housing authority and also prohibits landlords from increasing rent during the first year of a tenancy.
Senator Pat Spearman’s bill includes specific language that declared a housing crisis in Nevada. “A minimum-wage earner would need to work 62 hours to afford a studio apartment,” Senator Spearman said to the Senate Commerce and Labor Committee.
Republican Assemblywoman Danielle Gallant of Henderson and Clark County, who owns Guardian Realty and specializes in property management, voiced concerns on behalf of other party members to describe other unintended consequences seen in cities like San Francisco.
“Multiple states across the country have attempted rent control. It really has the opposite of controlling rent. That just causes demand to increase, and it just causes rents to go skyrocketing,” Gallant said.
Gallant said construction of new homes should have been the priority to help meet the Valley’s demand for housing, as well as concerns over rent prices.
“If we actually want to solve the housing crisis, we have to allow developers to build at a much faster rate. If anybody has tried to get a building permit to do a small home remodel, it is arduous. What we really need to do is really roll back on the regulations, and allow the building to happen at a much faster rate,” Gallant said, citing red tape and hurdles for companies to obtain building permits from federal and local jurisdictions.
Proposed Nevada Senate Bill 155 states the following: “Prohibit a county board of commissioners and the city council from enacting and enforcing any ordinance that discriminates against a homeless person... prohibiting a homeless person from engaging in life-sustaining activities in a public space, including... resting.... sheltering from the elements... eating... accepting or giving food in public spaces... occupying a motor vehicle.”
“We’re all a few bad months away from potentially being houseless. These are people with no other options, and they’re not getting a lot of help, they’re not getting services. The sweeps destroy a sense of community. It makes them harder to find work, it makes it harder to have any stability, and it continues the process of dehumanization,” said Shaun Navarro with the Las Vegas Democratic Socialists.
“It seems like the road we should be going down is not handcuffing county officials from figuring out how to police areas and keep them clean. I personally don’t want to see Las Vegas turn into what San Francisco has turned into,” said State Sen. Scott Hammond of Clark County, who has also seen the rise of encampments in suburban areas.
A proposed bill to reform fees and leases for tenants in Nevada’s housing crisis has faced both praise and opposition from landlords and businesses that could face more regulations.
The proposal comes from Senate Bill 78, authored by Senator Fabian Doñate of District 10 of Las Vegas. One key proposal is the regulation of application fees for prospective tenants.
“That’s ensuring the tenant and landlord relationship is protected, and we’re all doing our fair part to ensure that no side is getting undercut,” he said.
Many landlords and businesses praised the efforts to regulate predatory practices surrounding application fees but voiced concerns over the other parts of the bill that could hurt struggling “mom and pop” landlords.
“Prohibiting the ability to credit report damages everyone except the non-paying tenant,” said Roberta Johnson of the Creditor Rights Association before the committee.
AB 340 would change judicial procedures for landlords to initiate a summary eviction. Landlords would have to file an affidavit and complaint with the court and notify tenants of the amount owed, all prior to initiating a summary eviction.
Proponents argue that tenants need time to respond to eviction notices, come up with rent, seek social services-- or even move all their possessions.
“This would be more time. It allows county social services to engage and start getting ‘upstream... gives them an opportunity for those who might not be able to maintain their housing, or might be eligible for rental assistance,” said Jonathan Norman, speaking for Nevada Legal Services. Norman said 500 tenants are evicted daily, and many only know about the eviction when they receive a lockout notice.
Gallant said Republicans are open to changes, but some compromise is needed. “They need to come to the middle with us and help reduce some of the time, so landlords can have an easier time getting through evictions. Right now, evictions are taking anywhere from four to six months. Tenants are not paying their rent. And they’re just building and building the amount that they owe and biding their time until we get the eviction,” Gallant said.
Numerous landlords have voiced concerns to FOX5 that delayed evictions put their property in jeopardy of foreclosure, without any incoming rental income.
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