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Reno City Council Ward 5 finalists discuss ideas to address affordable housing

Mikki Huntsman is sitting in front of a laptop, talking with her hands. The three finalists are sitting in front of a long table next to her and looking toward her.
Lucia Starbuck
KUNR Public Radio
Reno City Clerk Mikki Huntsman (from left) and Reno City Council Ward 5 finalists Kathleen Taylor, Elliot Malin and Alex Goff at a Q&A and meet and greet at Reno Fire Department Station 11 on Aug. 31, 2022.

Reno City Council Ward 5 finalists discussed affordable housing during two meet and greets facilitated by the city this week. The seat was recently vacated by Neoma Jardon and an appointment for her replacement will be made on Wednesday.

Roughly 20 mostly retired Ward 5 residents gathered to meet the candidates at a Reno fire station. Ward 5 represents northwest Reno, including the University of Nevada, Reno.

Finalist Kathleen Taylor is on two planning commissions for the City of Reno and the Truckee Meadows Regional Planning Agency. She’s also the owner of a small business, which provides consulting and outreach for large transportation projects. To address housing needs, Taylor said she wants to see more inventory of all types of housing and less red tape.

“If there was a way to make affordable housing, the application process, easier, and streamline it... I believe time is money, and if there was a way to take those applications, move them to the front of the line, reduce some of the costs associated with it, I think that would be a great idea,” Taylor said.

Less than a quarter of Reno residents earn enough to qualify for a median-priced home, according to a Reno city staff presentation earlier this year.

Finalist Alex Goff is a Marine Corps veteran and deputy coalitions director for Nevada Democratic Victory, which aims to get Democrats elected up and down the ballot. He’s also the at-large member of the City of Reno’s Human Rights Commission.

Goff said when he first moved to Northern Nevada, he lived in Fernley because he couldn’t afford to live in Reno. Now, he wants to make sure homeownership is attainable for more people.

“So that means different types of housing, whether that be townhouses or studios. Making available properties for people to be able to own because, as we know, homeownership is the number one way most Americans build wealth in this country,” Goff said. “So making sure that we have inventory of houses that reflects our community, and making sure it’s all across the city.”

And finalist Elliot Malin echoed the need for more types of housing. He’s a registered Republican and a political consultant with experience in public policy and lobbying. He’s also very involved with the Jewish community, serving on the Anti-Defamation League of Nevada associate board and the Temple Emanu-El synagogue board.

Malin wants to see more low-income housing projects like the Village on Sage Street in Reno, where rent is $400 a month.

“Sometimes we have to also look at how we build up,” Malin said. “In our downtown area, we have the unique opportunity of some vacant buildings, and how do we work with those current building owners to change that into housing that is affordable as we move to the future.”

Resident Kurt Gottschalk was also in attendance. He applied for the position but was not selected as a finalist. He said the business community needs to be held accountable, too.

“It’s not just the cost of a house. Can someone have a job that’s going to pay them enough to be able to afford that house? Because if you got a house payment, maybe you have a car payment, and if you have a couple of kids, you got to be making good money, not having to work two, three, four jobs,” Gottschalk said.

For the Ward 5 seat, city council will ultimately select the winner on Wednesday. Many residents took issue with this being an appointment instead of holding a special election to fill the seat. Washoe County estimated it would cost $102,000 to hold a special election and it couldn’t take place until January due to the midterms.

Looking ahead to the general election, there are also three incumbents running to maintain their seats for Reno mayor and two city council positions.

Lucia Starbuck is a corps member with Report for America focusing on community reporting and the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. Local community issues are her passion, including the affordable housing crisis, homelessness, a lack of access to healthcare, protests and challenges facing vulnerable communities in northern Nevada.
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