Recovery Dollars Put People in Homes

Listen to the story

Recovery Dollars Put People in Homes


Brandon Rittiman/KUNR

A home in Sparks that will be repaired by the Reno Housing Authority.

Off work from her job at a local casino, Celi Torres leads her daughters Isabelle and Ariana to the front door.

They walk into a nicely remodeled 2-bedroom house just off Montello Street in Reno.

Celi: "We just actually moved in July first."

It's a far cry better than where the family was before that. They shared a small apartment with neighbors on either side. After a burglar broke in and took most of her things, Celi and the girls moved in with her mom until they eventually found this place.

It's actually 75 dollars a month cheaper than the apartment because she rents it from the Reno Housing Authority. Her income level qualified her for the low rent and that kept her from having to move somewhere more expensive.

Celi: "Probably be really stuck like living dollar to dollar."
Rittiman: "Don't have to do ramen noodles every night?"
Celi: "Yeah, exactly, exactly."

She gets to spend more of her money on raising her girls. And she can let them play in their new spacious backyard.

Celi: "This is the best part about it "

3-year-old Isabelle hops on a plastic tricycle to roam the patio

Celi: "They love it. They love it. They have so much space they don't know which end to be at."

A hundred families have similar stories to tell in this recession- that's how many homes the Reno Housing Authority has flipped so far using federal grants.
The man in charge of flipping them for the RHA is Tim O'Fallon.

He brought me to a home in Sparks to see what a lot of the hundred looked like before he flipped them.
It's a downright mess.

O'Fallon: "Carpeting, ugh. Carpeting is very, very bad. Multiple layers of vinyl flooring just stacked up on top of one another. Cabinets completely dislodged from the walls."

Inside there's a lot of duct tape holding windows and floor panels together. We also see lots of pictures taped to doors and walls left behind from before the last owners foreclosed.

O'Fallon: "You're looking at someone's life that was in one of these properties. Umm, it's kind of sad to see that some folks have to pack up and move out and that certainly wasn't their intention."

O'Fallon gets to take the disaster and turn it into to something good.
Without the RHA stepping in, this house might take a long time to sell and if it did, an investor might cut a lot of corners to try and start making money. But the RHA doesn't flip houses the way a normal investor does. O'Fallon shows me a hole in the siding near the back window.

O'Fallon: "With just a little bit of work you could probably stick your hand through the interior wall. All of this is going to have to be removed and replaced on the back section of the house."

When things need replacing, they get upgraded to newer energy-efficient standards.

This house is going to get about 25-thousand dollars of work done to it which will be done by local contractors. So there's a side benefit to the economy.

Yet another benefit is that soon this will be one less eyesore on the block

O'Fallon: "It helps the overall standard of the neighborhood."

Not all of the houses the RHA fixes will be rented out-others will be sold for no profit to people in middle income brackets. Still others will be rent-to-own properties.

So far on its first hundred homes the RHA spent about 8 and half million dollars. That's roughly the same as what will be spent to build a roundabout at the bottom of Geiger grade in South Reno.

To Celi Torres it makes as much sense if not more than any other kind of stimulus project you can think of.

Celi: "To a single mother that's just doing it on her own this is the best thing. it's a really good thing that there doing because it's for people that really need the help. "

The RHA still has more than half of the grant money it won to flip houses. When it sells one, that money helps buy more.

Officials figure before the three-year limit is up on the money, they can turn around another 170 homes in the Reno market.