POVERTY & HOUSING
Home ownership creates more stable families and neighborhoods. Research shows that homeowners are are more likely to make an investment in their neighborhoods and communities. The American Community Survey showed that fewer families could afford to buy a modestly priced home in 2021 than ever before in Reno. This not only impacts individuals seeking a home for personal stability, but the ripple effects of the resulting instability are felt far and wide- from industries seeing increased employee turnover, schools experiencing fluctuating enrollment, to general lack of investment and connectivity felt in our local neighborhoods.
The causes for poverty and lack of affordable housing are many and complex but essentially boil down to the simple fact that people's incomes are not keeping pace with the cost of housing. To combat these pressures a multi-pronged approach- ranging from better educational and workforce development opportunities for graduates to increased inventory of housing options at ALL levels.
To learn more about each indicator, simply click on the icon, chart, map, or graph to be directed to the NevadaTomorrow.org Community Data Portal, where you will see maps, charts, graphs, year-over-year comparisons, and more.***
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HOW ARE WE DOING?
Overall Community Poverty & Housing Grade
While housing prices in Northern Nevada were once a bright light in our economic picture, in recent years the cost of housing has been a huge challenge for many people. Local housing prices now far exceed the national average.
Learn more below about the state of health and wellness in our community.
CHILDREN IN POVERTY
Family income has been shown to affect a child's well-being in numerous studies. Compared to their peers, children in poverty are more likely to have physical health problems including low birth weight and lead poisoning, and are also more likely to have behavioral and emotional problems. Children in poverty also tend to exhibit cognitive difficulties, as demonstrated in achievement test scores, and are less likely to complete basic education.
This indicator shows the percentage of people under the age of 18 who are living below the federal poverty level.
NEED vs. RECEIVED: HOUSING ASSISTANCE
Not all housing units that are affordable are actually available to low income households. This indicator shows the percentage of housing assistance compared to the need for affordable units. Essentially, this means that only 26% of those in need are actually receiving assistance.
According to the Nevada Housing Division’s (NHD), Annual Housing Progress Report (AHPR), NRS 278 requires the NHD to maintain a statewide low-income housing database and AHPR using information compiled from jurisdiction reports. Clark and Washoe Counties are required to adopt a housing plan as a part of the jurisdiction’s master plan. The plan is required to inventory housing conditions, project future needs and demands, and to adopt strategies to provide for all forms of housing, including that which is affordable.
Total housing assistance includes subsidized low-income housing units, rental assistance, and other housing assistance, not just affordable units.
*Note that these housing problems are included in the Severe Housing Problems indicator reported as 5-year averages by the County Health Rankings.
Spending a high percentage of household income on rent can create financial hardship, especially for lower-income renters. With a limited income, paying a high rent may not leave enough money for other expenses, such as food, transportation, and medical care. Moreover, high rent reduces the proportion of income a household can allocate to savings each month. In Washoe County, almost half of all renters are considered "rent burdened" and that number is higher for young adults (58%) and our seniors (60%).
This indicator shows the percentage of renters who are "rent burdened"- those spending 30% or more of their household income on rent. Rental costs are comprised of rent and utilities (electricity, gas, other fuels, water, and sewer).
Renter's Spending More than 30% of Income on Rent
According to a recent KUNR article, "The number of community members experiencing homelessness in Washoe County has grown significantly over the last year. The national "point-in-time count" aims to get an idea of how many people are experiencing homelessness on a single night. Local jurisdictions are required to conduct the count and report their findings to the US Department of Housing and Urban Development. According to the data, about 1,700 people are experiencing homelessness in Washoe County. That's a nearly 40% increase from last year's report. In addition to the count, about 170 people were also surveyed." While the Point-In-Time Count has its limitations, it is one of the ways communities across the nation attempt to put a finite number on this challenging issue.
In 2022, we have some encouraging news - the PIT count has begun to show a decline in unhoused people in our community.
The annual Point in Time (PIT) count of persons experiencing homelessness in Washoe County is required to support annual reports to the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the region-wide Continuum of Care (CoC) Program. The PIT count includes a "street" count of the homeless, an online survey of homeless service providers, a motel count of individuals and families living at local motels, as well as emergency shelter and transitional housing data. Additionally, it includes interviews with homeless individuals living on the street, in motels, or in shelters. The PIT count takes place on one day within the last ten days of January each year.
The Point in Time (PIT) count data is used to develop and fund housing and supportive programs for those in need. The most common factors of homelessness in northern Nevada are domestic crises. Factors may include an inability to find an affordable house or apartment, unemployment, sudden illness in the family, and unforeseen major expenses. Additional factors include the lack of adequate transportation preventing individuals from living in permanent housing, non-payment for child assistance, severe mental illness, chronic substance abuse, and victims of domestic violence. Preventing and ending homelessness is a complex issue beyond providing housing or rental assistance. It involves a coordinated system with access to substance abuse, foster care, criminal justice systems services, and mental, physical, and behavioral health services.
The Northern Nevada Continuum of Care (CoC) is committed to ending homelessness. It provides funding to support this goal. The Regional Alliance to end Homelessness (RAH) works with youth, data, veterans, advocacy, and diversion groups to comprise the Northern Nevada Continuum of Care (CoC) Leadership Council. They are responsible for developing the region-wide CoC plan submitted to HUD by the City of Reno.
*NOTE: Whereas the PIT count is a snapshot of one day in late January, the Washoe County Built for Zero Actively Homeless Count separately tracks those actively homeless at midnight on the last day of each month. This methodology utilizes the Built for Zero (BFZ) national movement to end homelessness definition of "actively homeless." All the data reported are from the HMIS (Homeless Management Information System), documenting those experiencing homelessness who actively receive available homeless services each month. Although the PIT count also uses HMIS data for people in emergency shelters and transitional housing, the PIT count and BFZ definitions differ, and the data are not directly comparable.
Additionally, many believe another key data measurement for understanding the complexity of homelessness is recidivism. Recidivism is most easily defined as an individual or family that successfully transitions from homelessness and then returns to homelessness within two years. Currently, recidivism rates are tracked by Our Place, the women, children, and family shelter in Washoe County run by RISE or the Reno Initiative for Shelter and Equality.
Homelessness: Point-In-Time Count
OPPORTUNITY FOR HOUSING
The National Association of Home Builders assumes that a family can afford to spend 28% of its gross income on housing. In addition to principal and interest, the cost includes estimated property taxes and property insurance for the home. However, mortgage insurance is not currently a component of the Housing Opportunity Index (HOI).
The HOI tells the percentage of homes sold in the area that would have been affordable to a family earning the local median income based on a standard mortgage criteria.
Including income and housing cost components, the HOI is the share of records in a metropolitan area for which the monthly income available for housing is at or above the monthly cost for that unit. While the Reno/Sparks MSA was in a very strong position from the 1990s through the early 2000s we have dropped significantly in recent years. Employers considering relocating their businesses to Northern Nevada factor housing costs into their economic decision making.
Housing Opportunity Index
Overall, much of the data and research typically published to help determine this report were unavailable or not updated in 2020. So much of the world's energy went into tracking, surviving, and recovering from COVID-19 that significant reports and research projects were set aside. Despite the challenges, this preparation for this report uncovered several key takeaways.
The number of children living in poverty has steadily declined since 2009, from 21.1% to 13.9%, a big win for children and families in Washoe County. However, children of Black, Hispanic, and Native American heritage see significantly higher poverty rates than other children.
There is, and will always be, a need for housing assistance in our region. How well we meet that need is of critical importance. In 2020 our local resources met the housing need of approximately 26% of those who sought help. Ideally, we would be able to assist 100% of people and families needing housing support; however, this rate of 26% is up from a low of 23% in 2018, so there have been improvements.
Rent burden is how much take-home pay people must spend to put a roof over their heads. Ideally, this number is lower than 30%, meaning you should not spend more than 30% of your wages on rent. Our overall rate of those who are rent-burdened fell to 46.3% in 2019 from a high of 53.5% in 2009. We await data for 2020 and 2021 as we anticipate a spike in the number of rent-burdened people in our region.
The people most at risk of being rent-burdened in Washoe County are those 15-24 years old (58% of whom are rent-burdened) and those who are 65+ years old (60% of whom are rent-burdened). These most vulnerable populations need to be supported as the cost of living increases faster than entry-level wages or social security benefits.
Homelessness has been an increasing issue nationwide, not just in Washoe County. However, with rising costs of living, our region is seeing a significant increase in those experiencing homelessness.
Our region is actively pursuing many innovative approaches to help solve homelessness. A few examples are Our Place, the Village on Sage Street, Hope Spring, and the CARES Campus.
Our region's Housing Opportunity Index (HOI) continues to reflect our community's increasing cost of living. The HOI measures the percentage of homes on the market deemed "affordable" for a worker earning the regional median wage. In 2020, this index showed that only 38.8% of homes on the market in the Truckee Meadows were considered "affordable" for the median wage earner. This percentage is down drastically from the index of 85.5% of homes on the market deemed "affordable" in 2012.
Providing Housing & Hope
The Village on Sage Street provides safe, clean, and affordable housing for 216 people. Seniors and people with disabilities who are receiving a fixed income qualify for this community. The Village allows individuals to save money, pay off debts and pursue goals for greater independence.
In 2021, 41% of the people who moved out of The Village reduced their debt, and 15% of those individuals increased their income. One of the most significant challenges for the program is the lack of affordable studios and one-bedroom apartments. Rent at The Village is $400 a month, including utilities. The average rent for an apartment is $1600 in Washoe County.
The Community Foundation's Community Housing Land Trust is developing 20 single-family homes for sale in Golden Valley. The homes will be available to families earning less than 80% of the area's median income. Through the land trust model, families will own the home and lease the land so that the homes can significantly sell far below the market rate.