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Reno’s housing crisis is currently one of the worst in the country, and people with disabilities are among those most affected.
For people with disabilities, affordability and accessibility are important factors in deciding on a housing option, but the options in northern Nevada are slim. With the influx of new residents to the region and spikes in housing prices, finding affordable and accessible housing has become more challenging.
According to a study done by the National Low Income Housing Association, Nevada only has 15 affordable homes available for every 100 extremely low-income people. Reno currently only has 63 affordable apartment properties with a population of approximately 245,000 people.
The application for the housing waitlist is currently closed, according to the Reno Housing Authority website. Other affordable options remain, such as Northern Nevada Community Housing, but there is still disparity between need and vacancy.
People with disabilities often rely on Supplemental Security Income, which intended to aid aged, blind, and disabled people with little to no income, according to the Social Security Administration. The average person on SSI receives $735 a month, less than the median cost of rent in Reno, which is $851 a month.
A person living with disabilities only receives the full $735 if they are not earning more than the accepted income, are not receiving free food or shelter, or receiving money from friends, family, or other beneficiary programs.
Reno went through a recession like a lot of places did. Builders stopped building, businesses weren’t hiring, but now we’ve got big companies coming in where we’ve got warehouses, Tesla, Panasonic, Microsoft, etc. Which is great for the economy, but we are short on housing. So housing prices are going up like crazy. For someone with a disability who only receives SSI, you can’t even imagine them being able to afford to rent anything,” said Joni Inglis, an advocate of Northern Nevada Center for Independent Living.
NNCIL assists with social security, Section 8 applications, disability applications, food stamps, affordable housing referrals, and low income energy assistance, though recently Inglis’ work has focused more on helping people with disabilities find affordable housing.
Most often, Inglis helps those who have received a 30-day, no-cause eviction. Under Nevada NRS 40.251, landlords may evict a tenant for no reason and raise the rent price. For a person with a disability, finding accessible housing can sometimes take longer than usual.
“It’s just so overwhelming that I can’t look for everybody on the housing search all the time, and that changes daily. So the person who needs housing needs to either come here or use the libraries for computers, and I just tell them search it everyday. It’s horrible,” said Inglis.
A Section 8 voucher addresses this issue by subsidizing rent for low-income residents. Tenants who qualify only pay 30 percent of the rent and the rest is covered by the federal government. However, Nevada does not require landlords to accept Section 8. With housing prices reaching a median high in August, many landlords do not feel incentivized to accept Section 8 vouchers, giving people with vouchers very few options to live.
We do have people call and say, ‘I contacted somebody about getting housing and they won’t accept a Section 8 voucher.’ Is that a form of discrimination? Yes. Is it an illegal form or discrimination? No,” said Kate Zook, executive director of Silver State Fair Housing Council. “Under the federal act, there are seven basic protections and in the state [Nevada] we’ve added sexual orientation and gender identity and expression and there are states where source of income including Section 8 is included as a protection, but that’s not the case here in Nevada.”
Silver State Fair Housing Council addresses housing discrimination cases regarding race, sexual orientation, family status, national origin, religion, sex, and disability in the state of Nevada.
“The other problem is the voucher has a specific amount of rent that it would cover, and as the rent continues to increase, the housing authorities are maxed out as to how much they can actually provide. So it falls on the tenant to be able to afford to pay for that extra rent which in many cases, that’s impossible,” said Roberto Ortiz, director of programs at SSFHC.
Without affordable and accessible housing, homelessness becomes a viable option, which puts pressure on individuals like Inglis to ensure every client finds housing.
“People with disabilities, when they’re homeless, they’re super vulnerable. Especially people with mental disabilities or emotional, intellectual disabilities,” said Inglis.