Student housing project dies; more blight and homeless follow

Published: Mar. 6, 2017 at 6:06 PM PST
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The Standard in Reno, as it would have been called, would be built on a blighted block on the edge of downtown.

Older homes, substandard housing being replaced by brand new apartments, needed housing for students, and it fit in with the city and the university's shared goal of integrating the school and the downtown.

"We've got a student and faculty population of 25,000 that could really be a catalyst for revitalizing our downtown," says Vice Mayor Neoma Jardon, whose ward includes the property.

But it was always going to come at the cost of those who were living in these homes and had few other options. So, they were moved out, it's alleged, with very little assistance.

"They were just really thrown to the wolves in order to meet the needs of other people who were deemed to be more important than they were," argues Mike Thornton of Acting in Community Together in Organizing Northern Nevada, or ACTIONN.

It was a private project, but the city welcomed it, agreeing to abandon an alley and a portion of Lake Street, to help it happen. But now it appears the project is dead.

The property is back up for sale. And though some housing was made available for rent again, as far as we know, the 100 or so who were displaced are not among them.

And the neighborhood looks even worse.

"Now we've got what was already a blighted block, now even more blighted," says Jardon, "and individuals were displaced. It's unfortunate that that was the outcome. I'd like to see if a project doesn't emerge there and soon, that he rent those facilities back out."

Just tear the boards off the doors and windows and move people back in?

"Yes," says Jardon. "Tear the boards off. Even though it was not the ideal solution, it was meeting the needs of some of our lower-income individuals."

That would be fine with Thornton.

"It would be great if the city would say 'what can we do with this, make it so it's habitable even if it's for short term housing.' I think that's something that should be looked at."

The students will find housing elsewhere and the city will continue to redevelop areas around the downtown,

But Thornton says as that happens, the displacement of those in need of low-cost housing will become more critical. The city--he says--needs some long-term solutions for low-cost housing.

Our repeated attempts to get comments from the developer--Landmark Properties--have gone unanswered, but if--as expected--they do not file for a building permit by April 13, the alley and the street will revert back to the city.

A community block grant to improve sidewalks and lighting in the area is, we're told, unaffected. Those improvements will be made.