Nevada lawmakers OK $250 million for affordable housing

Geoff Dornan
Nevada Appeal

The legislative Interim Finance Committee on Thursday, April 7, approved spending $250 million in federal ARPA money on Nevada’s affordable housing crisis.

But key members of both parties objected strongly that the spending plan essentially cut the legislative branch out of a say in exactly how it would be spent.

In the end, just three Republicans voted against the plan, saying it could wait 90 days until they get more say in how the money would be spent.

Republicans Assembly Minority Leader Robin Titus of Wellington, Sen. Pete Goicoechea of Eureka, and Sen. Don Tatro of Carson City all said they support the goal of improving access to affordable housing in Nevada. But they all questioned whether the vote needed to be Thursday, effectively stripping lawmakers of their role in approving detailed plans to spend public money.

Goicoechea pointedly said the issue can wait 90 days until the next IFC after lawmakers have more input on how the cash will be spent.

Responding to statements that it isn’t an emergency that needs action now, Assemblywoman Daniele Monroe-Moreno, D-Las Vegas, said it is a crisis.

“This is a problem we have had in our communities long before COVID,” she said. “This is not an emergency? Tell that to the mom living in her car with four kids. This is an emergency.”

Republicans unhappy with the plan were joined by IFC Vice Chair Maggie Carlton and IFC Chairman Chris Brooks, both D-Las Vegas, who essentially said they object to going around the legislative branch, leaving them with an all-or-nothing vote and limited oversight.

They agreed to vote for the spending, saying Nevada is in a crisis with nowhere near enough affordable housing for people and a short timeline before the federal government takes back much of the money.

“The constitution says we are supposed to have oversight,” said Brooks. “My frustrations are with the government we have in the state of Nevada that does not serve the people of Nevada.”

“Please do not do this again. This is the last vote I will ever take that circumvents the Nevada Legislature.”

Asked what oversight lawmakers will have over the actual spending of the money if approved, Brooks told fellow lawmakers, “none.”

Carlton said repeatedly she had serious reservations about how the plan was put together and argued, like Brooks, that it steps around legislative oversight.

For the longest time, she said, she couldn’t get to where she could support the vote.

“But folks are knocking on my door who are in very desperate need,” she said. “I’m apprehensive about it but we have a crisis and need to deal with it now.”

She said she would be watching how the money is spent very closely.

The money is half of the federal cash Gov. Steve Sisolak has dedicated to relieving the affordable housing crisis in Nevada. The other funding will be appropriated later.

The vote came after nearly three hours of public testimony from organizations dedicated to child care, senior citizens, mental health, the poor and low income earners as well as builders and other groups unanimously urging approval of the funding. They backed their calls for support with numerous stories about people having their rent doubled in the past year and reports that numerous people even in the middle class are unable to pay for housing at rates consuming half or more of their monthly income.

Steve Acroft of the housing division said a total of over $1 billion is being pumped into the affordable housing crisis. He said that includes, $30 million in homeowner assistance, $300 million in bonding authority, $208 million in emergency rental assistance, $20 million in homeowner assistance and other programs. But he said even that isn’t enough to fix Nevada’s problem.

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