Construction taking off in Lahontan Valley
LVN Editor Emeritus
Two speakers with deep roots in the housing market are bullish on the Lahontan Valley for the next spurt of population and building growth as a result of new jobs being added in western Nevada.
Bill Brewer, executive director of the Nevada Rural Housing Authority, and Aaron West, CEO of Nevada Builders Alliance and a Churchill County High School graduate, recently offered their latest overviews on the housing market at the Churchill Economic Development Authority’s June breakfast meeting.
Brewer gave background information on his agency’s role. He said rural is defined as any area under 150,000 residents.
“The entire state is rural except for Reno, Las Vegas, Henderson and North Las Vegas,” he pointed out.
The Nevada Legislature created the NRHA in 1973, and in 1995, the agency became quasi-governmental. Brewer said the NRHA has assisted thousands of families who wanted to buy a house. In Churchill County, for example, he said the NRHA has helped 230 families and provided $36.7 million in mortgage assistance and $26 million in tax credit savings.
Brewer added the average income of Nevadans seeking help is $70,731 and the average credit score is 693. In Churchill County, though, he said the credit scores tend to trend about 20 points higher than the state average. The agency also helps single renters and families and seniors with their monthly rentals payments. Besides Fallon, he said the NRHA also has housing projects in Elko and Winnemucca.
“We assist retirees who can’t afford to fix up their homes,” Brewer said. “For low-income households, we help folks stay in their homes and make it more affordable for them.”
Brewer said the NRHA doesn’t have any new development projects in Fallon, but Fernley is different.
“We hope to get a development off the ground in 2020,” he added.
West said the impacted areas for growth must build more housing. Under West’s leadership, the Nevada Builders Alliance has developed working relationships with local school districts, economic development entities, the State of Nevada, Nevada community colleges and universities as well workforce development organizations and nonprofits.
The focus on rural areas outside the Reno-Sparks area is not new. In 2016 at a CEDA breakfast meeting, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Housing representatives said they were encouraging new residents to look at Fernley and Fallon as better areas for affordable housing, educational opportunities and quality of life. With the completion of USA Parkway almost two years ago to U.S. Highway 50, the USDA said Silver Springs, Dayton and Yerington are within easy driving distance to the Tahoe Reno Industrial Center midway between Fernley and Sparks.
Moreover, in the rural communities, the USDA said homebuyers can receive 100 percent financing from the agency, sometimes at a reduced interest rate.
West’s Nevada Builders Alliance includes 860 contractors. Because of laws passed by the Legislature and the efforts from the alliance, he said homeowners can pursuit legal remedies with builders if they have problems with the construction. With the laws being tightened, West said the number of lawsuits have been reduced during the past four years.
West is seeing an increase in the number of people entering the skilled trades and also with their salaries. He said the average wage for a skilled worker is about $110,000 annually.
“We don’t see it slowing down,” West said.
Because of the employment growth at TRIC and throughout western Nevada, he said the area could add 50,000 jobs over the next four years. Aided by the number of retirees moving to the Reno-Sparks area, he said the average sales price for a home is $420,000. Furthermore, West said buyers can’t find new homes for under $300,000. In fact, he said most new homes are selling for about $400,000. In the rural communities, he said more rental property is needed.
“Winnemucca, for example, is expecting to add 1,000 jobs because of the increase with the mines,” West said.
Fallon, he said, is very progressive in looking at its opportunities and joint ventures. Currently, several housing developments are underway in Churchill County including a major development off Colman Road near the Reno Highway.
West also reviewed bills from the last Legislature that ranged from a renter’s bill of rights to water issues.