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Public Health
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.

Where Housing And Public Health Collide

Fresh vegetables in baskets sit on a table.
Anh Gray

About half of the people living in Washoe County are rent burdened. That means they’re spending roughly a third of their income on housing. Reno Public Radio’s Anh Gray sits down with a public health expert to learn how Northern Nevada’s housing crunch is affecting people in the community.

Where someone lives affects their health. In 2017, a report from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation placed Washoe County ninth out of 16 counties that were ranked in Nevada, dropping several spots from the previous year. Local health officials attribute the lack of affordable housing in the region as one reason for the poorer health outcomes leading to a lower ranking.

“We know that we have 50% of the rental population that is rent burdened, spending more than 30% of their income on their rent,” says public health expert Kevin Dick. “We feel that that is contributing to people’s physical health and their mental health because of the stresses involved for people with low-incomes to try to be able to maintain their housing and tend to all their other needs.”

In the last year, Reno moved from being identified as a mental healthcare shortage area to not being identified as a shortage area, but Dick has different thoughts on that identification.

“Services are not available to many that really need them in our community. We have mental health providers that are not providing services to Medicaid clients. We really need to increase the number of providers that are providing those services to the people that really need them that don’t have an abundance of financial resources.”

This story is part of our series called Priced Out: The Housing Crunch.

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