Reno, Nevada to use stimulus cash for low-income housing

After years of letting motels get demolished, a cash infusion sets the stage for below-market units

Reno, Nevada (Getty)
Reno, Nevada (Getty)

Federal stimulus money is allowing the city of Reno, Nevada to convert motels into below-market-rate housing instead of bulldozing them to make way for a new, $1.8 billion entertainment district.

ProPublica is reporting that in the wake of its investigation into the city’s standing by as developer Jeffery Jacobs bought and knocked down a number of motels that were used to house hundreds of low-income residents, its mayor is changing her tune.

Armed with hundreds of million of dollars from the American Rescue Plan Act, Mayor Hillary Schieve is encouraging the Reno Housing Authority to purchase property within the proposed entertainment district, with one 19-story former casino and hotel lcated directly across the street from the plan’s signature casino, the Sands Regency, on a block primarily owned by Jacobs.

In the past, city officials have cheered the plan by Jacobs, and did little to ensure the residents affected by the demolitions were found new homes, according to the website. Jacobs was responsible for the demolition of nearly 600 housing units since 2017, and called the buildings he was knocking down slums that were beyond repair.

Jacobs told the website he did provide relocation assistance to many of the people who lived in the demolished motels, and, after the first report was released, said he would be willing to donate up to $15 million in land for an affordable housing and public parking project — as long as the housing authority financed its construction.

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Schieve’s moves are a reversal of how the city handled things in the past. Back in 2016, it used a blight fund to pay for the demolition of two vacant motels even as some members of the community demanded they be preserved for much-needed housing.

But now that the money is available, the housing is on the table.

“It’s tough to build it. It’s expensive,” she told the website. “With the ARPA funds, it really gives us a foot in the door.”

[ProPublica] — Vince DiMiceli