RENO — Affordable housing projects are expected to be finished a little more quickly now that a federal pilot program has launched in Nevada.
Officials from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Nevada Housing Division as well as representatives from legislators and developers gathered at River Place Apartment Homes on Kuenzli Street near the Truckee River to sign a memorandum of understanding launching the program aimed at reducing regulatory burdens and streamlining review processes on affordable housing developers in the state.
“To use something from popular culture, sometimes it is easier to keep up with the Kardashians than all these federal regulations,” said Hilary Lopez, chief of federal programs for the Nevada Housing Division.
The program launched Tuesday is intended to help developers such as Bob Nielsen construct affordable housing projects for seniors, low-income families and disabled persons. Nielsen, who is also president of the National Association of Home Builders, and partner Ann Harrington built River Place, which opened in July 2011, and also built City Hall Senior Apartments and Sierra Crest Senior Apartments in Sparks. To finance construction of affordable housing takes several layers, all of which have similar processes. Under the pilot program, rather than duplicate efforts for numerous financing agencies, developers will be able work with the Nevada Housing Division as a single agency to streamline the paperwork process, saving both time and money.
Lopez said affordable housing developments are financed through a combination of tax credits, local and federal funds and private financing. The Department of the Treasury, HUD and USDA Rural Development section each are required by law to perform a “subsidy layering” review for each multi-family housing project that uses more than one source of funding. This review is meant to ensure that federal money is not wasted or duplicated. In so doing, developers often have had to make multiple submissions of similar forms, meaning more time wasted and money spent.
“When you do this kind of project you have to put all the puzzle pieces together,” Nielsen said, standing in the community room at River Place.
He estimated that about three months could have been saved on the completion of the complex under this new pilot program, which might not seem like much but can make a big difference in terms of interest rates or expiring tax credits upon which a project’s entire financing structure is based.
Nevada’s pilot project is the last of 13 being
conducted nationwide as part of the Obama administration’s effort to create a better-coordinated federal rental policy. Some other states also have subsidy layering programs, while others have programs to streamline inspections and three states have both projects. The goal is that once all the pilot projects are complete to take the best practices of each and create a new national policy for construction of affordable housing, Lopez said, and ultimately more housing.
“The MOU initiative is an important step in NHD’s effort to continue affordable rental housing’s success in serving our most rent-challenged and at-risk families,” said Nevada Housing Division Administrator Chaz Horsey in a press release. “Through the launch of this pilot program, our partners and customers can begin to realize cost- and time-savings that will help enable low-income families to have access to affordable housing where it is needed most.”