Study to examine rural housing across counties

A five-unit multi-family housing project is underway on County Road in Minden.

A five-unit multi-family housing project is underway on County Road in Minden.

Nevada Rural Housing has enlisted the help of University of Nevada, Reno Extension to conduct a two-year study of the rural housing situation in every Nevada county.

The study will provide detailed information about the housing challenges and needs in each community, and will help guide the agency’s decisions on how to spend federal relief funds received, as well as other agency funds.

“While it doesn’t take specific data to tell us Nevada has deep, affordable housing challenges, it does take a more analytical approach to help deliver the right solutions that will create lasting impact for generations to come,” said Bill Brewer, Nevada Rural Housing executive director. “Simply building more, or providing more subsidies, isn’t necessarily the answer. There’s no silver bullet. Our housing problems are multi-faceted and layered, which requires a layered approach with many solutions.”

Extension’s Nevada Economic Assessment Project has been commissioned to lead the project, and will be working with a variety of local, state, and federal agencies, as well as conducting other research and analytics, to assess housing conditions. The project will expand upon the program’s work that already provides county, state and federal agencies, and their partners, with baseline data and analyses to better understand trends in each county’s demographic, social, economic, fiscal and environmental characteristics.

Extension will be looking at several factors in regard to the housing situation in rural areas of the state, including household size, percentage of total income spent on housing, senior housing, housing for those with disabilities, and housing for those with low fixed incomes. Research has already begun in Lincoln and Elko counties.

“We are really pleased to be working with Nevada Rural Housing on this,” said Buddy Borden, Extension community economic development specialist, who directs the program with colleague Tom Harris. “It’s so important that Nevada Rural Housing, and everyone they partner with throughout the state, have detailed information to tailor solutions for each unique community. That’s the only way to ensure that we don’t just ‘band-aid’ the issues, and instead address these challenges with long-term solutions.”

The information will be shared with various partners across the state and will be available online. Brewer said they hope to work with the University to use a dashboard-style, interactive tool as the project evolves.

“We’ve commissioned housing studies in the past, and while they’ve been useful, they’ve historically only provided a snapshot in time,” he said. “This project Extension is doing is an upgraded approach, using a template that will make ongoing updates simpler and more readily available – especially as Nevada grows or contracts over time. The data will be shared and used by all of us intending to make a dent in our housing supply and access problem.”

Brewer pointed out that Nevada Rural Housing is considered a local government agency, not a state agency, and thus receives no funding from the state budget, and manages its own budget. The agency has received relief funds and earns other revenues to promote, provide and finance affordable housing opportunities for rural Nevadans. He says the pandemic “shed an enormous light on the housing crisis in Nevada,” resulting in an unprecedented commitment by state and local government to help deliver solutions.

“I think we’re all looking to see how we can make the best housing decisions with a community that will make a lasting impact for the better,” Brewer said. “Partnering with Extension, which has a proven track record in our state, an understanding of housing data collection and analysis, and a presence throughout our rural communities, is a perfect fit for this project.”


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