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Home and rental prices continue to soar in Northern Nevada and Northeastern California, leaving more working families and individuals on the brink. Seniors, college students, single parents, immigrants, and the working poor are particularly vulnerable. Some must choose to pay rent over buying food or securing healthcare. The lack of affordable housing in urban and rural areas alike is changing the identity of this region. In response, the KUNR newsroom is examining housing through many lenses, including the economic, political, and public health impacts.You can also subscribe to the Priced Out Podcast on iTunes, Google Play, and Stitcher.

How National Immigration Policy Impacts Reno Housing

Construction workers on site of an apartment complex being constructed for people 55 years of age and older.
Noah Glick
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Construction workers on site of an apartment complex being constructed for people 55 years of age and older.

For our series, Priced Out: The Housing Crunch, our reporters have been speaking to several developers. And some have pointed out one potential reason for rising housing costs: immigration enforcement.

Reno Public Radio’s Noah Glick examines the connection.

Since taking office, President Donald Trump's administration has made immigration enforcement a priority.

The president and Congress have had opportunities to extend the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Program, known as DACA, but that hasn't happened. Trump ordered the end of temporary protected status for tens of thousands of people from countries including Honduras, El Salvador and Haiti, among others.

And Immigrations and Customs Enforcement officers have been more aggressive in immigrant communities, while enhancing security at the border with Mexico.

This might not sound like a housing story, but it is.

Kelly Rae is a developer for HabeRae Homes in Reno.

"There’s no labor because of our practices on a national level are prejudiced toward our neighbors to the South," she says. "And not allowing those folks to come over and work, well guess what? We have no labor. We have a labor shortage here."

When workers are in demand, they earn higher wages, which leads to higher home costs for buyers.

According to the Pew Research Center, immigrants make up 27 percent of construction labor across the country, and 15 percent are undocumented.

Don Tatro is the executive director of the Builders Association of Northern Nevada. He says immigration reform is important because there aren’t enough domestic workers going into the construction industry.

"In the short term, we need a good immigration reform where we have a solid level of workforce coming in, because by and large people aren’t going into the trades," he says. "The average age of a plumber in the United States is 57 years old."

Along with looking at immigration, Tatro says it’s critical to get more young people introduced to the trades at an early age, in order to fill the pipeline with qualified workers for the future, and to help control rising costs.

Noah Glick is a former content director and host at KUNR Public Radio.
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