When you look around the West 2nd District today, it’s easy to see why some would deem it just another ramshackle neighborhood worthy of little more than the wrecking ball’s relief. But we see it differently. We see a place that, despite its woeful realities, is home to many people. Fellow human beings, members of our community, each of them deserving of our respect and understanding. We see these people living their lives here every day, many seeking something better but are uncertain where to begin the journey. We see an opportunity to be of help.
As the developer of the West 2nd District, the Don J Clark Group is an organization rooted in the ideals of fairness, inclusiveness, dignity, and compassion. Thus we see housing affordability as a cornerstone concern of our work. For us, our ambition to revitalize this area of downtown Reno must be mirrored by a commitment to create opportunities for those being displaced as a result. And our expertise as urban place makers must be equaled, or exceeded, by our ability to spark and sustain positive change across socio-economic barriers.
The first signs of the District’s transformation will be the closure and removal of the weekly motels that currently define the neighborhood. While this process will prepare the District for its rebirth, giving us the ability to fulfill new, workforce housing needs, it will, at the same time, be contributing to a problem: the shortage of affordable housing alternatives for former West 2nd residents and others in their economic situation. Now, a responsible developer would see this need as both a responsibility and a challenge, would rally their community’s best and the brightest to address it, would leverage resources and relationships to forge an honest-to-goodness solution. And that’s precisely what we’re doing. By championing housing affordability, we’re putting our responsible-development credo into action, demonstrating the radical good that a developer can deliver when they’re willing to lead with their heart.
It’s called Inclusionary Housing, and it’s not just a goal, it’s a product we’re creating, one we aim to deliver across the demographic spectrum. Through our efforts in the four following areas, we’re endeavoring to thoughtfully address the impacts of both gentrification and scarcity, inspiring a community that’s diverse in its personalities, opportunities, and experiences.
Workforce Housing That Works For More People
Of the 2,000 residential units being built in the West 2nd District, a more than 50% will be classified as Workforce Housing. These are residences defined as affordable to those earning 80-120% of the Area Medium Income (AMI), and determined by a maximum individual housing expenditure of no more than 30% of one’s gross income. That said, 20% of the District’s apartment inventory will be reserved for those earning 80% of the AMI, while over 50% of our condos will qualify for “Home Is Possible,” Nevada’s down payment assistance program.
Relocation With A Vision
There are currently 3,000 weekly motel residents in the downtown area. They range from youths to chronically homeless adults, with a vast majority of them earning less than 40% of the AMI. The West 2nd District’s on-staff team of social workers and relocation experts, working in concert with leading local organizations, has developed a comprehensive relocation protocol that will assist displaced residents not just in finding new accommodations, but in gaining access to the services that can change their lives. By bringing such vital voices to the table as the Reno Police Department, City of Reno Code Enforcement, Nevada Legal Services, Truckee Meadows Healthy Communities, and Washoe County to share ideas, energy, and resources, we’re not simply solving an immediate problem, we’re creating a long-term, collaborative blueprint for taking real care of our most vulnerable citizens.
This category of housing has the potential to transform the lives of both individuals and families while strengthening the very fiber of our society. Designed to serve population groups spanning from the chronically homeless up to those earning 60% of the AMI, the multi-income model is, by definition, inclusive. And with this inclusion comes the kind of robust socio-economic diversity that creates new networks of civic understanding and cooperation. There are several local organizations that have utilized HUD funding to develop multi-income projects. One of them is Juniper Village, a facility designed, not coincidently, by Cathexes, the architectural firm of West 2nd founder, Don Clark. While planning our own such facilities here in the District, we’re also advocating strongly for their development throughout the Reno-Sparks community.
Tax Increment Funding For Permanent Supportive Housing
A place to call home is only as good as the ability it affords its residents to better their lives. To many citizens of this community, weekly motels are how they define home. And for many of them, that’s not enough. They need more. They need services to help them take control of lives, they need support to help them stay on track, and they need accommodations that foster their growth and self-reliance.
Permanent Supportive Housing serves chronically homeless youth and adults earning less than 40% of the AMI by combining affordability with ongoing social serves. These facilities typically feature amenities, such as kitchens, that support independence and well-being. Additionally, they include onsite offices where full-time case managers can meet face-to-face with residents to address their needs and assess their progress. Given both the dire need for, and lack of, this kind of housing in our community, we propose the use of Tax Increment Funding (TIF) to renovate and convert select weekly properties into Permanent Supportive Housing sites. It’s a smart, cost-effective way to provide those in need with precisely the help they’re in need of.