As Reno falls among one of the cities with the highest homelessness rates in the country, University of Nevada, Reno, is working to educate students on the housing crisis.
Nevada Student Power, Silver State Fair Housing Council, Eddy House, Acting in Community Together in Organizing Northern Nevada and the Associated Students at the University of Nevada legislative affairs hosted an “Affordable Housing Teach-In” — an event aimed to discuss the impact of housing insecurity in Reno — at Joe Crowley Student Union on Tuesday, Nov. 26.
Nevada Student Power introduced the event and discussed the housing crisis. The speaker explained that 67 percent of average households cannot afford to buy a home in Washoe County and describe that Reno has the fourth highest rent increase in the country last year. He cited the rising homelessness problem in the area. Around 22 homeless neighbors in Washoe County died in 2016 while there were 27 deaths in 2017.
Eddy House Director, Michele Gehr, spoke about youth homelessness and the Eddy House program. Eddy House is a daytime shelter opened to people ages 18 to 24. Opening in 2015, Eddy House now serves about one thousand adults. They provide food, clothing, housing, programs and a safe space for the homeless. Some programs they provide include meditation, martial arts and Medicaid workshops. Homeless teens and homeless adults should not mix due to predation, according to Gehr. Eddy House is making plans to expand in order to help more people.
ASUN Director of Legislative Affairs Katie Worrall spoke about the university expansion. The university plans to create a university district by 2025 by using mixed-use development, according to Worrall. The university hopes to arrange a new residence hall, student apartments, a parking garage and commercial buildings. The university wants to divide the district into different precincts.
The southernmost area that will be named the “gateway” will hold commercial, parking and housing. There are 12 historical homes in the gateway precinct. These home will need to be removed when the university expands in that area. With the university expansion, more people will be displaced out of their homes and it is unclear if the student apartments will be at an affordable rate.
“Students need more affordable housing,” Worrall said. “Everyone in our community needs improved housing security.”
Participants of the event were urged to share their opinions and concerns on the housing issues in the Reno area.
“Right now in my current living situation in Sparks, I pay $1,240 a month for a one bed one bath,” said university student Tyler Parry. “It’s corporate so I don’t know who my landlord is. It’s not affordable by any stretch for a student. It is necessary for the university to expand. We have 22,000 students already and getting more and more. We need more mixed-use housing, build more dorm style apartment, keep old houses for studios and one-bedroom rooms, add more street lighting. It gets scary sometimes.”
Other students spoke about the fear of “greed” from the university.
“The university teeters between greed and growth,” said Wendy Wiglesworth, a representative from ACTIONN. “You can’t complain about a problem you create.”
ACTIONN is a faith-based social justice movement aimed at helping the local community, especially those impacted by poverty and injustice.
SSFHC is a non-profit agency advocating for equal access to housing in Reno and Las Vegas. SSFHC provides information regarding fair housing rights, discrimination, investigations and referrals to Nevadan housing owners and renters.
Nevada Student Power offered two temporary solutions to the housing issue. The first solution they proposed was the establishment of an Affordable Housing Trust Fund, which will hopefully shift housing funding from the annual budget allocation to public revenue. The second solution they recommended was the establishment of a Supplemental Government Services Fee. SGSF is a progressive tax on vehicle registration that guarantees funds in annual revenue.
Nevada Student Power urges students to contact Washoe County legislation to pass Affordable Housing Trust Fund and the SGSF through email or Twitter.
Taylor Johnson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @NevadaSagebrush.