By Taylor Avery
Reno Mayor Hillary Schieve and members of the Reno City Council spoke at the annual State of the City on Tuesday, Feb. 5, at the Reno-Sparks Convention Center.
Among the citizens in attendance were Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak, Reno-Sparks Convention & Visitor’s Authority president and CEO Phil DeLone and Reno City Manager Sabra Newby. DeLone and Newby also presented speeches.
Mayor Schieve and Reno City Council shared programs that had been implemented in the last year, including new businesses in the area and community outreach programs.
Housing was the primary focus of the address. According to Mayor Schieve, housing is “the largest challenge we face.”
According to the December 2018 Market Report from the Reno/Sparks Association of Realtors, the median sales price in Reno for an existing single family residence was $362,000. This is a 15 percent increase from November 2017 and a 32 percent higher than the national median, according to statistics provided by YCharts.
“A median home price of $375,000 simply isn’t an option for many people,” said Schieve. “We must continue to work hard to find ways for people to afford to live here.”
One option the Reno City Council explored in the past were affordable housing units. The City of Reno donated four acres of land to the Community Foundation Housing Land Trust for the Village on Sage Street, a facility with 200 single occupancy units meant for those with an income less than $2,500 per month.
“One of the most impressive city accomplishments that I truly do believe is that we oversee the creation of more than 1,600 affordable housing units,” Schieve said.
She acknowledged more discussion is needed for the housing issue, announcing that a state of housing address will occur this spring.
Mayor Schieve also talked about her Motel Inspection Program, stating it was to the benefit of those living in desperate need.
“We cannot allow substandard living for anyone, no matter what they pay in rent,” Schieve said. “I will not waiver on this, and I will not cave to those taking advantage of our neighbors in desperate need.”
The City of Reno adopted the program on August 22, 2018. Article 1 of Bill No. 7053 states, “The purpose of this chapter is to address the shortage of safe, sanitary and affordable rental housing options for residents in the City.”
Ward 1 Reno City Council member Jenny Brekhus stressed need for better housing and community in Reno. She raised concerns about the city’s finances.
“We must strive to provide the opportunity for every citizen to have quality recreational opportunities built into their daily lives,” Brekhus said. “Our Reno master plan has a template for us to grow responsibly so that we can achieve this while accommodating new growth with the housing units most affordable to our projected population…It will not be easy to accomplish all this given our fiscal condition.”
The 2019 Address was reminiscent of last year’s address, as housing became a major theme for Reno in 2018. In last year’s address, Mayor Schieve named housing one of the “top priorities” for Reno City Council.
Mayor Schieve also talked about the Council’s goal of fiscal responsibility in her 2018 Address, as well as 2019’s.
“I’m proud to report Standard & Poor gave us another upgrade of an A+ bond rating, noting that our stability is a huge asset, due to strong financial management and good financial policies,” Schieve said. “This has resulted in some of the strongest liquidy in our city’s history.”
Fiscal responsibility wasn’t the only goal Mayor Schieve and the Reno City Council made real strides towards in the year between addresses.
In 2018, Mayor Schieve talked about a program to put ambassadors in downtown.
In February of 2018, the council voted to develop a Business Improvement District. It involves ambassadors who “interact daily with and provide assistance to residents, visitors and the homeless,” according to the City of Reno’s website.
Ward 5 Reno City Council member Neoma Jardon shared the program currently has 13 ambassadors.
The address can be streamed at reno.gov/Home/Components/News/News/18977/576.
Taylor Avery can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @NevadaSagebrush.