Las Vegas Sun

February 21, 2018

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Housing authority funding down another year as officials brace for further cuts

Southern Nevada’s housing authority is planning improvements at units and single-family homes in the Las Vegas Valley even as officials make do with less federal funding.

The Southern Nevada Regional Housing Authority is getting $3.1 million in federal funding for capital projects and operations, down from $3.8 million last year, says Amparo Gamazo, the agency’s interim executive director.

Gamazo said cuts like these aren’t new, and the agency is expecting another 15 percent reduction when a budget is passed for the fiscal year that starts Oct. 1. The Trump administration has proposed a 13.2 percent cut to the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

“We have not been funded 100 percent for many, many years,” Gamazo said.

About $800,000 of the funding will go toward Espinoza Terrace, a 100-unit senior living community in Henderson that opened in 1973. Gamazo said the agency is putting a financial package together to pay for an estimated $15 million investment, which includes a projected $11 million in construction costs.

The hope is to start construction on that project no later than April, Gamazo said.

“We’re just trying to raise all the funds that we can so we can modernize those units,” she said.

The $3.1 million will also help support improvements at scattered single-family homes in the valley, targeted based on need. She said many of the improvements will deal with energy and water efficiency.

Some of the agency’s federal funding decrease for operations and capital projects represents a shift toward Section 8 housing vouchers that allow residents to choose where they live, Gamazo said.

“HUD has been consistently saying, we cannot keep up with covering the cost of rehabbing the units,” she said.

High maintenance costs, better funding options and choice for residents are helping to fuel the shift toward vouchers, Gamazo said. Even so, the voucher program is funded at about 77 percent.

In North Las Vegas, HUD has appropriated a $23,557 grant to Nevada Partners, a nonprofit organization that administers the Culinary and Bartenders Housing Partnership Fund for gaming industry employees. Jodi Mobley, Nevada Partners director of housing programs, said more than 1,050 Southern Nevada residents have purchased their first homes through the fund since it was established in 2008.

Mobley said the federal grants help fund housing counseling and education services for people who are not Culinary and Bartenders Union participants. She said Nevada Partners has only recently started receiving federal grant money to supplement funding, and these dollars will go toward educating clients about homeownership, making them aware of down payment options and other homebuying details.

Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nev., said in a June 30 statement after the funding announcement that Nevada is expanding and needs to protect access to quality affordable housing.

“These grants will support programs that help Nevadans manage their finances, maintain their properties and protect themselves from predatory lenders,” she said. “Funding from HUD was essential to our state’s recovery from the housing meltdown of 2008.”

HUD announced in a July 6 news release that $50 million in housing counseling grants were being awarded to several groups, including the North Las Vegas nonprofit.

“This is a smart investment in helping families find and keep their homes,” HUD Secretary Ben Carson said. “Quite simply, knowledge is power. We know that armed with the information they need, those who receive counseling services are far more successful in buying, renting or avoiding foreclosure.”

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