by Connie McMullen
The housing shortage is making it difficult for boomers and aging retirees to pay for affordable housing in the Truckee Meadows. A recent analysis indicates that not only are young residents having a difficult time affording to live in the Reno area, but also those who have lived here independently, aging in place most of their lives.
New growth in the construction industry has created a sharp divide between those with sizable earnings and those with limited- income able to compete for housing in the same markets. Limited inventory and strong demand for single family homes is at the heart of the problem.
Additionally, those who have held on to their homes view the shortage as a possible lifesaver.“Homes valued under $500,000, in good condition and priced well sell in a matter of a few days rather than weeks or months as in 2017,” said Phil Reed, broker of the Sierra Sotheby’s International Realty’s Reno office. The shift is creating a lot of competition in what has been traditionally a slow time of year for real estate sales.
The upswing in housing sales has city leaders also concerned about those being displaced by new investment activity. Developers are buying parcels for planned future investments, eliminating housing units traditionally used for housing low-income residents in the older downtown core.
Not only has the housing crunch affected residents living a paycheck away from being homeless, but it is also impacting residents who have been relatively stable the past 20-years. In 2002 the City of Reno conducted a needs assessment that indicated the majority of residents were aging comfortably in single family homes mainly in old Southwest Reno, without much need for wrap around supportive services. Flash forward 16 years, and the picture is less optimistic for aging retirees.
Today, the existing housing stock in Reno is still predominantly single-family homes (65%), despite a higher proportion of renter occupied households but competition and demand has made it difficult for residents to stay put.
With the aging population over 65 estimated to increase by 66 percent over the next 20 years, data prepared by the Truckee Meadows Regional Planning Agency (TMRPA) suggests 33 percent of households in the region are already cost-burdened (pay more than 30 percent of their income for housing), and the statistic is not expected to improve.
City of Reno, Assistant City Manager Bill Thomas, said at a recent meeting, “Households earning less than 50 percent AMI ($34,050) have the greatest need for affordable housing. Lower income residents and seniors are a housing priority for the city of Reno.”
Thirty-three percent of households cannot afford the median rent which is $875 a month and escalating. Thomas said the findings of the TMRPA Housing Study say: Reno needs affordable housing, more compact development, and more higher density redevelopment.
In recent years the number of seniors living in weekly motels in the downtown core area has grown from 576 in 2010 to 1,271 in 2017, according to a survey by the Reno Area Alliance for the Homeless.
Thomas said those with fixed incomes living on a minimum Social Security check of $735 a month are paying around $669 a month in rent, leaving little to live on. Older adults who previously lived in comfortable, safe settings are being forced to live in conditions that in many cases are risky and unsanitary.
While city leaders are exploring strategies to resolve much of the housing shortage both immediate and long-term, more affordable housing is not be constructed fast enough. Currently there are 2,402 housing units under construction with only two projects designated for older residents. Summit Club with 574 units is under development while Vintage at the Crossings with 230 units is expected to open this year.
Despite a challenging inventory in the Reno-Tahoe real estate market, first quarter data points to a robust year for home sales in 2018. Multiple offer situations and competition from investors has become the new normal for the Reno market according to Reed. “Buyers who are looking for homes cannot be faint of heart and must be ready to come to the table with cash and/or strong pre-approvals in hand at time of offer.”