Village on Sage Street: Low-income housing almost ready

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RENO, NV (KOLO) The most visible evidence of our housing problem is the homeless you see along East Fourth Street most any day, but there's another less obvious population at risk--those retired or working with an income, but struggling to survive.

"If you had $1400 income and you had $900 rent, how can you live?" asks Chris Askin, President and CEO of the Community Foundation of Western Nevada.

"They could be couch surfing," says Devin McFarland of Volunteers of America. "They could be living in their car. Some are paying rent, just too astronomical to sustain them long-term."

The Village at Sage Street is built to help them. The city began talking about solutions a couple years ago.

It had property--an empty lot along the tracks east of downtown. It needed a partner to turn it over to; the Community Foundation of Western Nevada stepped forward, and someone to run it, like the Volunteers of America. But what would work?

Ideas including a cluster of tiny homes was discussed, but the eventual solution was found at a Wyoming mine, already-built, modular single-occupancy dorm rooms, office space, rec room, community rooms, rest rooms and a dining space.

It was all trucked to Reno, set up on the Sage Street site and, with just sidewalks, landscaping and some interior finishing, it's just about ready.

There is space for 224 occupants, more than have already applied.

"Forty percent women, 60 percent men, and 70 percent (overall) are getting their income from employment," says Askin.

To qualify, they must be 18, have $800 for the first months' rent and security deposit, have an income of between $1330 and $2680 a month, have proof of two months' income and pass a background check.

This is not subsidized housing. The $400 monthly rent covers the cost of running the place.

Residents will be responsible for their own food, but a Grab and Go convenience store run by Rounds Bakery will be on site, open 24 hours with microwaves available.

In the end the success will be measured not by those who stay, but those who leave and what they leave to.

The idea, Askin says, is that the low cost will allow residents to put money aside to get out of debt or buy a car or have the money to move on to more conventional housing.

"We're very excited about the potential of the people who move in here to be able to move to that next step."

How to make contributions to the Village on Sage Street.

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