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Congressional hearing this week tackles housing crisis

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Suzanne Potter

(Nevada News Service) Local housing advocates are speaking out ahead of a congressional hearing before the House Ways and Means Committee this Wednesday called "Nowhere to Live: Profits, Disinvestment, and the American Housing Crisis.

Nevada is short almost 80,000 rental units for extremely low-income families, according to the National Low Income Housing Coalition

Christine Hess - executive director of the nonprofit Nevada Housing Coalition - said that's the greatest shortage in the country for those making less than $25,000 a year.

"In Nevada, we have over 400,000 renter households," said Hess. "And of those over 100,000 - they're paying more than half of their income on rent."

As rents have risen in recent years, families are having to double and triple up, some become homeless or move away. 

But hope is on the horizon. The state is putting $500 million federal dollars from the American Rescue Plan into affordable housing, taking applications from developers now via the Home Means Nevada initiative

The 2023 federal budget increases funding for Section 8 vouchers that subsidize rent. 

Hess said the last major federal investment in affordable housing, in the sixties, came before Nevada's population boom. So federal tax-credits are crucial to getting new projects built.

"Affordable housing - especially for those making below 50% of area median income - doesn't just build itself," said Hess. "The market is not going to build that. That requires federal subsidies. "

Hess said the Build Back Better Act, which has been stalled in Congress for many months due to conservative opposition, would have made huge investments in low-income housing.