Group aims to tackle housing issues

The Economic Diversification Council held a meeting last Thursday morning to take the first steps toward addressing housing needs in White Pine County.

The meeting saw members from the County Commission, City Council, City and County Building Inspectors, White Pine County District Attorney, area Realtors from Keller Williams and Desert Mountain Realty and members from the public attend.

“We had a lot of important people involved who make the rules,” Chairman Wayne Cameron said. “…They’re going to play a big part in what happens to the dilapidated buildings.”

A housing assessment completed last year by White Pine County Community and Economic Development Director Jim Garza, saw a housing gap of 137 units is projected based on 2010 Census information. The Nevada State Demographer predicting total employment in the county to grow by 22 percent through 2030 and with nearly half the housing available more than 50 years old, according to the study.

The vast majority of rental units were reported to be greater than 12 years old, the report said. Housing in White Pine County will remain a hot issue.

In 2012, according to information provided at the meeting, after the completion of the housing assessment, a potential interested developer asked local mining operators for letters of commitment to guarantee rents for a certain number of units for a specific amount of years, but mining operators were not comfortable providing such guarantees, causing the developer to not proceed.

Representatives from Midway Gold, who were also in attendance at the meeting, said they have difficulties finding adequate housing for new employees. But Garza said he believed last week’s meeting and the continued efforts from his office will yield results.

“Housing is not a new issue to our office,” Garza said. “We have been working toward creating relationships between the community and developers. It’s just a matter of time before a deal is struck between a landowner and a developer.”

Concerns were raised during the meeting about conditions of homes and rental properties and what the City of Ely and White Pine County could do about those conditions. County Commissioner John Lampros expressed his frustration and said it was time that everyone stopped talking about the issue and begin to take steps toward solving the issue.

But with Chairman Cameron meeting to hand out tasks for individuals to research before the Council’s next meeting in October, there are several issues Garza said he hopes they will find more information on. Those include USDA grant opportunities, what leverage do building departments have when addressing safety issues related to quality of life and possible incentives that can be considered to lower or offset landfill costs if an older structure is removed and a new home is built in its place.

“We have several take-aways to work on and bring back remedies for our second workshop,” Garza said.

With numerous county and city representatives, the Realtors in attendance gave their perspective on the housing market and participated in the conversation as well. For Realtor Kenna Almberg, the meeting provided reasons for optimism for the future.

“My biggest take away from the meeting is we need more decent rentals in the Ely area,” Almberg said. “We do have people call or come into the office daily, frantically looking for a suitable rental in the area and it is hard to turn them away with a rental list with maybe a one or two-bedroom rental on it. I was pleased to hear the council’s ideas to help clean up the city and demand that landlords do necessary repairs on their properties.”

While last week’s meeting may have been a first step toward addressing the county’s needs, for most involved, it was a positive step in the right direction.

“I was happy with the showing of hands of the people who wanted to continue on and keep this thing going,” Cameron said.

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