Whether it’s seniors on fixed incomes or working people trying to stay afloat in a recovering economy, Clark County Commissioner William McCurdy said he’s heard similar stories of people facing big increases who fear losing their home.
Rents in the Las Vegas metropolitan area have already risen 20% since February 2020, according to a report presented to the County Commission on Tuesday.
A bulletin sent out by Nevada real estate agents in August informing its members that there are no rent control laws in the state and “landlords can increase the rent as much as they wish, as long as the rent increase does not occur during the current lease, ”the commissioners worried about additional rent increases.
“A week after our last meeting when I mentioned concerns about voters saying their rents were going to be doubled when signing a new lease, a week after that, we asked the Nevada Realtors Association to send a document saying to raise the roof. “McCurdy said.” We’re not even out of the pandemic yet. We have evictions that are slightly on the rise… We have our fixed income seniors literally pinching and splitting their prescription drugs in half so that ‘they may have some type of treatment.
The newsletter article, written by Nevada Realtors attorney Christal Park Keegan, said that “increasing rent rates should identify the delicate balance between increasing rent to cover costs and aligning on rents in the region “.
However, housing justice groups are warning tenants that rents increase exponentially after leases expire.
McCurdy said now was “not the time” for homeowners to “be greedy”, but rather, it should be “the time to show a little compassion and figure out how to keep people housed before. that we really have a crisis more than we are entitled to now. “
“I ask you to work with us,” McCurdy said, addressing the industry collectively from his committee seat on Tuesday. “We are not trying to work against you. We understand everyone wants to make extra money, especially if you have an extra rental property, but now is not the time to say raise the ceiling or there is no ceiling or raise the roof. . Now is not the time and I find it quite disgusting and disrespectful for the work this council does.
The committee took no action during the meeting.
In a statement to Nevada Current, Nevada Realtors President Brad Spiers said the association is working with “more than 19,500 members statewide to encourage real estate owners to work with tenants to resolve their issues and concerns, especially during this ongoing pandemic “.
“Our statewide association is also supporting the efforts of Clark County Commission Chair Marilyn Kirkpatrick, the Nevada Congressional delegation and other elected officials to engage HUD in conversations about the issue. ‘Increase in rent assistance limits from current levels to close the gap that occurs as a result of rent increases. he said.
Kirkpatrick recently looked at various zip codes to see average rent prices, finding that most apartments were $ 1,400 or more, even in older neighborhoods.
“We don’t have rent controls for a reason, because we’ve always been able to have an environment where people invest and they make a little bit of money,” Kirkpatrick said.
Southern Nevada is now in a different environment, Kirkpatrick acknowledged.
The county, Kirkpatrick said, “wants people to have a stable environment,” but rising rents are creating a barrier.
“I feel like we have to tell people, ‘Hey, you can raise them all day, but we can’t put people in there and we can’t subsidize it,'” he said. she declared.
Tim Burch, the Clark County Social Services Administrator, said most market-priced apartments are $ 1,300 and up, and Nevada home prices “are rising five times faster than checks. pay”.
Clark County has focused on keeping people housed during the pandemic by offering rent assistance through the CARES Housing Assistance Program (CHAP), which was established in July 2020. The county has launched a portal to streamline the application process in October.
Updating commissioners on Tuesday on rent relief efforts, Burch said CHAP had “put $ 100 million directly into the hands of our landlords and our constituents within our community.”
More than 32,000 households have received assistance. The processing time has also been reduced from 120 days to 60 days.
“The last time we were before you, we had about 20,000 applications pending. It fell to 7,900, ”said Burch.
In May, the county also announced a partnership with the Nevada Supreme Court, local courts, municipalities and the Southern Nevada Legal Aid Center to ensure tenants facing eviction are connected to the aid.
The collaboration is separate from state law passed in May that linked the eviction process to rental assistance and ordered landlords to stay the process while requests for assistance were pending.
“The evictions court program has been able to issue checks to homeowners and prevent evictions from more than 2,600 households,” Burch said. “We have 1,800 applications pending. ”
When a tenant receives a payment or departure notice at their door and files a response, Burch said that “the court in each jurisdiction sends us a list of people who have filed a response every morning.”
“Our team then goes through this list to see who is already on the CHAP application portal. We take them out and start working on them, ”he said. “If they haven’t applied, we send it to a group of nonprofits – Nevada Partners, Hopelink, and HELP of Southern. They contact and call each of these applicants, encourage them and help them register.
Burch said the county receives regular reports from the courts and compares them to 2018 and 2019 eviction rates.
“They have yet to see evictions exceed the traditional thresholds of 2018 and 2019, but June was a month higher than normal for cases,” he said. “We expect to see a slight increase due to the suspension of people’s unemployment benefits.”
But existing assistance efforts could be in vain if rents continue to rise in addition to a housing shortage.
Before the pandemic, Burch said that in a typical month there were 11,000 open apartments circulating in the market. There are currently only 6,000.
“We have a constant problem when people fall through the cracks and get kicked out or they don’t ask for help and we help them through one of our relocation programs,” said Burch. “We have hundreds of pre-cleared and are looking for units, but unable to find them in a timely manner as they are in line.”
The county did not offer next steps at Tuesday’s meeting.