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The Reno-Tahoe area is facing a severe shortage of affordable housing, impacting everyone from families to employers to even the police force. Over the next several months, KUNR will explore the housing crunch from the perspective of tenants, landlords, homeowners, businesses, realtors and economic experts, looking at the challenges and possible solutions.

Squeezed Out: The Case of the Disappearing Midtown Rental Homes

Julia Ritchey

Reno's housing market has steadily regained its health, making it a sellers’ market. This is putting strain on the city’s dwindling supply of rental homes. In our ongoing series Squeezed Out, reporter Julia Ritchey explores what’s happening in Midtown, Reno’s trendiest neighborhood.

"This is a nice little space. So you can see, I have access to a backyard and a frontyard..."

Margie Hicks has lived in her two-bedroom, one-bath rental house on Caliente Street in Midtown for about six years.

She says back then, it wasn't hard to find a place to rent.

"It was during the housing recession, and there were a lot of rentals at the time," she says. "And the prices were quite a bit lower, even in this neighborhood. As I shopped around, there were places up the street that they were $750 and $800, and now those same places are going for $1,350."

Not only that, but those rentals are becoming fewer and far between in Midtown. "For sale" signs have been popping up in front of other bungalows and cottages on Caliente Street since the beginning of the year. It wasn't long before Hicks was informed by her landlord that her house was being put on the market, too.

"So, a little concerned about where I'm going to be in six months," says Hicks.

"This is a story we hear a fair bit in Midtown right now," says Gary Raydon, a developer with Marmot Properties. "A lot of the rental stock in Midtown is now being sold for single family."

They have about 200 rental units in their portfolio, mostly in Midtown, and have renovated many of these older single-family homes to add to their stock.

William Process, president of the Reno-Sparks Association of Realtors, says homeowners who held on during the Recession are now able to let go.

"Many of the people that were holding onto them because they were upside down are now able to sell them and they're running," he says. "We are in a seller's market right now, which means sellers are dictating the terms."

A healthier supply would be about six to seven months of inventory, but the Reno area has about three months, which means homeowners in more desirable neighborhoods, like Midtown, are able sell quickly.

Credit Julia Ritchey
Margie Hicks has lived in her two-bedroom, one-bath rental for six years on Caliente Street. She found out earlier this year, the house was being put up for sale.

  "So the situation we're in right now, a seller's market at 3.2 months supply of inventory, is there's not enough inventory that buyers are going out and finding one home they like, maybe two if they're lucky, and sellers are getting multiple offers on homes," says Process.

Gary Raydon says it’s good to see a healthier market with more single family homes being sold, but he’d also like to see more multi-family housing.

"Hopefully there's going to be some higher density developments done here in Midtown soon," he says. "There's a pretty good demand for it, and we are big, big proponents of adding more people to Midtown."

Hicks hopes this as well. She hasn't started looking for new places yet, but ideally would like to stay in this quiet southwest corner of Reno.

“It seems to me like the people that are talking about Midtown, are talking about the youth — get the youth down here," she says. "But what about us older people that have maintained this neighborhood all these years? There has to be a place for us to.”

Hicks goes out to water her garden, noting that the front yard was nothing more than dirt and knee-high foxtails when she moved in. Over the years, she’s planted a full garden and lawn.

"I've got that tomato plant that I don't care that much about," she says, holding her water hose. "And this one I'm going to put in a bigger pot, and if I have to move, I'll just take it with me."

She points to a bed of baby cabbage heads and says it only takes about 45 days for them to grow, a fast enough turnaround in case she’ll have to go elsewhere.

**Tune in again Fri., May 19 at 88.7 FM, when we’ll continue our Squeezed Out series on affordable housing challenges in the Reno-Tahoe area.** 

Julia Ritchey is a former reporter at KUNR Public Radio.
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