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Applying YIMBY Principles to Western Nevada

Updated: Jun 11, 2020

Our mission is to mobilize our neighbors seeking quality housing.

YIMBY is an acronym for Yes In My Back Yard, coined in contrast to NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard). The YIMBY Movement across the country includes people who welcome more neighbors into their communities and strongly believe their neighborhoods should be for everyone.

Whether you were born and raised here or if you’ve moved from Cupertino, Michigan or Guatemala, you should be able to achieve your full potential in Western Nevada. You should have access to good quality schools, access to good jobs and, crucially, be able to live in quality housing.

Ours is an inclusive vision of welcoming all new and potential residents. Anyone who wants to should be able to own or rent financially attainable quality housing.

Western Nevada is growing very rapidly

Build more housing

  • We strongly support building new housing. We have a severe housing shortage.

  • COVID-19 may provide a respite. Yet as the economy reopens, conditions that caused rapid growth in the past have no reason to disappear going forward.

  • If we continue to add 10,000 residents per year in Western Nevada's metro area and only add 4,000 housing units per year, the shortage will continue.

  • Increasing supply of housing in all geographies for all income levels will lower rents and housing prices in all geographies for all income levels.

  • If we want to lower rents and housing prices, we must build more than 4,000 housing units per year. It’s that simple.

  • We should build more housing in every neighborhood — from low-income through high-income neighborhoods.

  • We do not oppose building large, free-standing single family detached developments for all income levels. Many of our neighbors prefer to live in these outlying areas.

  • Many other neighbors want to live in high-density housing with high-quality public transit and walkability. We don’t have to wait. Housing can be built before or in anticipation of the construction of future transit improvements.

  • The people most hurt by a housing shortage are those with the least means.

  • It’s time to embrace Missing Middle Housing — housing with anywhere from two to fifty units. This means duplexes, townhomes and small apartment complexes. It’s called “missing” because in Western Nevada and most jurisdictions across the country it’s hard to find and zoning is not there to support it.

Setting a goal by the numbers

  • Our goal is to keep housing costs for owners and renters at or below 30% of gross income and combined housing and transportation costs below 45%. Households with costs above these two thresholds are considered burdened.

  • For the 77% of households in Washoe County with less than $100,000 income, the goal is to bring combined housing and transportation to 45% of income for the majority.

  • As solutions to our housing crisis roll out, the 23% of households in Washoe County with more than $100,000 income will have an opportunity to drive their combined housing and transportation costs well below 45%. This will be especially true for the 4.8% of our neighbors living in households with more than $200,000 income.

  • For 2020, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has set 100% of Average Median Income (AMI) in Washoe County for a four-person household at $79,600.

  • We use HUD’s definition of workforce housing as attainable for households earning between 80% ($63,680) and 120% ($95,520) of AMI with total housing costs not exceeding 30% of gross income.

  • We also use HUD’s definition of affordable housing as attainable for households below 80% of AMI ($63,680).

  • It is important to understand public subsidies such as the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) are only available to households with less than 60% of AMI ($47,760).

  • Public housing is only available for households below 50% of AMI ($39,800 for a 4-person household and $27,860 for a 1-person household). A full-time single earner living alone needs to make less than $13.39 per hour to qualify. Even below these levels, the waiting list extremely long.

  • HUD’s Extremely Low-Income Limit for Washoe County is 34% of AMI ($25,100 for a 4-person household and $16,716 for a 1-person household). A single earner living alone needs to work less than 36 hours per week at the $9.00 minimum wage without benefits as of July 1, 2020 to qualify.

  • One of our communication goals is to overcome the widespread confusion arising from many believing financially attainable quality housing only refers to subsidized housing.

  • There is a shortage of financially attainable quality housing for 77% of our neighbors — from the homeless up to households making $100,000 per year.

Density is good

  • At Regenesis Reno, we are unapologetic urbanists who believe in the virtues of cities. More people living in close proximity to each other can improve their lives and the lives of those far beyond the centers of Reno, Sparks and Carson City.

  • Density can be achieved by increasing housing within the McCarran ring road and along corridors stretching into outlying areas that already have infrastructure in place.

  • Density is sustainability: it reduces urban sprawl, reduces water usage, uses energy more efficiently, and creates a smaller carbon footprint.

  • Density is accessibility: it encourages walking and biking, makes transit more efficient, reduces social isolation, and increases residents’ access to diverse cultural products and to each other.

  • Density is opportunity: it increases access to jobs, supports diverse businesses, promotes innovation, and enables people to be more productive.

  • People should be free to choose to live in places that are urban, compact and walkable, low-density and car-centric. They should also be free to choose to live in suburban or rural places. Not everyone wants to live in a dense city. However, current policies restrict the supply of urban housing, leaving suburban life as the only attainable option for many.

Housing is a home

  • It is not the role of the local government to maximize wealth for property owners.

  • Creating attainable housing for all and maximizing home values are incompatible goals – therefore public policy should be based on viewing homes as places to live, not as investments.

  • Housing is infrastructure. The primary community benefit of new housing is the housing itself.

  • Filtering exists. Today’s new, expensive housing becomes tomorrow’s inexpensive housing, as long as scarcity isn’t induced by restricting the creation of new housing.

  • Local governments should fight blight by expanding economic opportunities and ensuring access to credit for residents, not by seizing blighted properties via eminent domain and razing them.

Stop Displacement

  • Western Nevada has more than enough physical space for more housing without displacing existing residents.

  • We should maximize the number of Below Market Rate (BMR) housing units as opposed to the percentage of BMR units in new projects.

  • Higher priced housing helps protect lower income residents. In a growing economy, higher income newcomers compete for older housing stock and outbid lower-income residents. Adding supply at all levels helps protect existing non-wealthy residents from being priced out of their homes.

  • Effective ways to protect and preserve existing affordable housing units include community land trusts, resident owned and controlled cooperatives, maintaining strong tenant protections, promoting homeownership, improving access to credit in minority and low-income communities, opposing abusive withholding of housing benefits, expanding federal funding for subsidized housing, providing attorneys for at-risk tenants and homeowners, and building more housing.

Zoning and Planning Policy Prescriptions

  • We believe in long-term planning. Once a citywide or neighborhood plan is made, the process for building should be streamlined, well-defined and predictable. It should not impose significant delays on or add significant costs to a project, nor should individual property owners or neighborhood associations have the power to hijack it.

  • As-of-Right building must be the norm – defined as development plans approved at the departmental level if the project is within existing zoning.

  • Mandate or incentivize each jurisdiction to follow the TMRPA regional plan, new regional planning covering the five counties (both formal and informal), and statewide housing policies and mandates.

  • Reform of environmental regulations – highly effective, yet also reasonable.

  • Raise height limits.

  • Form-based zoning.

  • Mixed-use zoning.

The housing shortage is not an unintended policy failure. Western Nevada has a housing shortage because of decades of voting and organizing against housing. The solution is to organize for housing.

We must mobilize our communities, employees of our businesses and other organizations, make our case in the media, write to legislators, support projects at hearings, support pro-housing candidates, and vote for more housing.

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