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NV Second to Worst in West for Rental Affordability

May 9, 2011

LAS VEGAS, Nev. - Nevadans need to work 2.5 minimum-wage jobs to be able to afford a modest, two-bedroom apartment in the Silver State, according to a new study of housing affordability - or lack of it - by state. The Out of Reach 2010 report ranks Nevada just behind California as the worst two states in the West for lack of affordable rental housing.

AnnaMarie Johnson, executive director of Nevada Legal Services, says especially in the Las Vegas area, thousands of families don't bring in $19 an hour or more - the amount the study says is needed to afford basic two-bedroom rental prices.

"Our economy still hasn't recovered. We have people who are still unemployed and people who are underemployed, and their incomes are extremely low."

Johnson says the Obama administration has made $3 million in stimulus money available to Nevada that has helped some families make rent payments, although she says even more families would be helped if the federal government would broaden the definition of what it means to be at "immediate risk" of being homeless.

A federal voucher program, known as Section 8, has historically been the most helpful for low-income renters. It allows them to find apartments on the open market and subsidizes the rent. The problem, Johnson says, is that not enough rent vouchers are being issued to keep up with the numbers of people affected by the economic downturn.

"It's been three years since the Housing Authority has opened up the waiting list for new people for vouchers. There's a huge need for subsidized rent here in southern Nevada."

Thousands of families in Clark County can afford only low-budget motels that charge weekly rent - or worse, she adds.

"If you've only got $200 or $300 of your income to pay rent with, you're renting substandard housing or housing that really is uninhabitable - where there shouldn't be people living in it."

The National Low-Income Housing Coalition study finds that a family needs to make about $36,000 a year to afford a basic two-bedroom apartment in Carson City, or $42,000 a year for the same size rental in Las Vegas.

State-specific data from the study is available at www.mhponline.org.

Mike Clifford, Public News Service - NV