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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.

Pets Are Being Priced Out Of Reno's Rentals, Too

Bree Zender

Over the past several weeks, KUNR has been reporting on the affordable housing crunch in Northern Nevada and the Eastern Sierra. Today, we speak to a man whose beloved cats essentially priced him out of the Reno rental market. Reno Public Radio’s Bree Zender spoke with him about his extended search for a home for himself, his cats, and his wife. 

Carl Phillips first found his cats at Crystal Park in Verdi. They were strays, and for a couple of years he and a neighbor fed them.

“But then finally one day… it was cold. Middle of the winter,” Phillips said. “The cats would actually come into our car and go to sleep. They didn’t want to go. They literally put their claws into the seat when I tried to throw them out. I felt so bad. They’re like our kids.”

But when the owner of Carl’s Reno rental home decided to sell the house that Carl, his wife and his cats were in…Carl didn’t know how tough it would be to find another rental home that takes cats within his price range, especially in the 30 days he was given to move out.

“Immediately, after he said he was going to sell, I started looking the next day,” Phillips said. “I actually started packing and looking the next day, and I was quite shocked.”

Carl was not only unable to afford a new rental home, but he couldn’t find anything at all, whether it was affordable it or not. And the cats made things even tougher.

“I had one lady who said, ‘I have six people who work in my office. Each one of them has about 100 applications on their desk for a limited amount of houses. We don’t need to rent with somebody with pets,’” Phillips said. “She says, ‘Get rid of your pets. Then come back, and we’ll put your application [in].’”

For Carl, getting rid of his cats wasn’t an option. His family ended up being booted out of their house earlier than they thought because of a misunderstanding with the new owner. They still didn’t have a new place, and they ended up having to move in with his daughter in Truckee for a couple of months and then into his brother’s house in Carson City.

“Sometimes,I would spend 6,7 [or] 8 hours a day either on Craigslist or looking at Zillow or all the other places online. If you weren’t there practically when the sign went up, you weren’t going to get the place,” Phillips said.

After a few months, Phillips gave up looking for rentals. He decided, instead, to simply buy a house.

“I had made the decision that if we couldn’t find a place, we were going to move out of the area. Out of state,” Phillips said. “And then some of my relatives, my better half, convinced me, ‘Well, your daughter, your grandkids [live here.] We need to stay here.' I go, ‘Okay. Let’s keep trying.’”

Six months after his landlord originally sold his house, and four months without a place of their own, Carl found a house in Dayton.

“And literally I looked in the window; I got on the phone. I told my agent, 'Put an offer on it right now,'” Phillips said. “And we put in an offer within $1,000 of the asking price, and we got it.”

Now, as Carl sees advertisements pop up for pet adoption, he gets upset. He knows firsthand that there’s often no place for the pets or their owners to go in the rental market.

“Had you asked me a year ago, 'Would you like to live in Dayton?’ I didn’t even know where Dayton was at,” Phillips said. “We always say, 'We got it for the cats. They own the place. They just let us stay here,' but that was the only way I’d want to be in this position again. I don’t want to ever again have a call, somebody knock on the door and say, ‘You’ve got to be out.’ Nope. That’s over.”

You can find more from KUNR’s Priced Out series on our podcast, Priced Out: The Housing Crunch. You can find it on Apple Podcast, or wherever you enjoy your podcasts.

Bree Zender is a former host and reporter at KUNR Public Radio.
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