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Affordable housing is Western Nevada’s top challenge, EDAWN CEO says

Geoff Dornan
Northern Nevada Business Weekly

STATELINE, Nev. – The CEO of the Economic Development Authority of Western Nevada (EDAWN) told the annual economic update affordable housing is Western Nevada’s biggest challenge.

Mike Kazmierski told the 900 business and community leaders at the Peppermill Casino during EDAWN’s 2022 State of the Economy in Northern Nevada the region needs some 6,000 new housing units a year to keep pace with demand as more and more people move here. He said that’s 500 new houses, apartments and condos a month.

But he said despite the fact the area now has 60,000 more residents than 15 years ago, fewer houses and other units are being built than back then.



He said the problem must be solved and, until it is, “companies are going to tell us (their workers) can’t afford to live here.”

“You have to make $60,000 a year just to rent a decent one-bedroom,” he said.



Provided

Kazmierski has been warning businesses and community leaders for years about the affordable housing crisis in this area. Now, he said, the number of units for sale in the area is so low even people with money can’t find housing.

With the median price of a house in Sparks reaching $521,750, Kazmierski said people, “can’t live here anymore; they can’t afford it.”

Along with materials such as lumber, he said there are increases in fees and regulatory costs.

Along with the “NIMBY” effect where projects to infill undeveloped or re-developed properties in urban areas are opposed by existing residents who demand often expensive upgrades to projects that increase costs to the final buyers or renters. He said senseless appeals have to be stopped.

Kazmierski said in some cases, local governments need to accelerate approvals for projects.

He said 10,000 housing units have been delayed four years and now, “the people who were going to buy those houses can’t afford them.”

Another major issue, he said, is workforce development — preparing the people to take the growing number of high-tech jobs.

“Forty percent of the jobs that exist now won’t be here in 10 years,” he said.

He said by 2023, there needs to be a robotics program in every school in the area. And he said infrastructure needs to be dramatically upgraded in the area’s schools.

“We’re not going to be tech competitive with 50-year-old schools and no equipment,” he said.

Without high-tech skills, he said Nevada students won’t be able to get those jobs.

And those jobs are already coming to the area. Kazmierski said the area is attracting mostly technology and advanced manufacturing companies.

The only part of the economic picture recovering more slowly is bringing back older workers, many of whom decided to retire during the pandemic.

The annual economic update wasn’t held last year because of the COVID-19

“Let’s call this our COVID coming-out celebration,” he said

 


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