SWAT training has not delayed the waiting list for affordable housing
There were no smashed doors or broken windows at the Stead home used for training with the Washoe County Sheriff’s Office.
• Claim: The Washoe County SWAT team uses Reno Housing Authority homes for door and window breach training; Meanwhile, homeless people are on waiting lists to live in such homes.
• Summary results: One Reno Housing Authority home was used for three hours for SWAT training. No doors or windows were broken, and no one stayed longer on the waiting list for affordable housing because of this temporary use.
At Monday’s Community Homelessness Advisory Board meeting, homeless advocate Natalie Handler spoke during the public comment period about a social media post she saw:
“The SWAT team uses Reno Housing Authority homes to do training, which is a shame because people are again on waiting lists for years to get into this housing. Why do we use SWAT teams to break through doors and windows?
SWAT training on a consistent basis
There was actually special and tactical weapons training last week at Stead.
About 15 SWAT team members spent three hours conducting “scenario-based training to prepare for real-world situations,” the Washoe County Sheriff’s Office confirmed.
This was the first time SWAT training had been conducted at a Reno Housing Authority home, RHA Executive Director Hillary Lopez said.
SWAT training did not extend the waiting list
The RHA’s mission is to help provide affordable housing in the area. It has a portfolio of about 1,290 units that it rents at below-market rates to seniors, low-income families and others. It also works with area landlords to convince people to take up private rentals using vouchers funded by the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development.
The Sheriff’s Office has worked with RHA in the past, providing work crews to help with landscaping on its property. This relationship led to a request to use a vacant house for training in a neighborhood and real home.
“We always want to support our public safety partners,” Lopez said, adding that no windows or doors were damaged during the training.
Asked if anyone had stayed longer on one of the RHA’s waiting lists because of this training, Lopez said: “Not at all.”
This was one of a number of currently vacant RHA houses.
“Overall, across our portfolio, RHA’s vacancy rate is 6.7%, which is well within the range of other multifamily property management projects,” she said.
“This is not a case of ‘Oh my God, people were waiting, coupon in hand, rent in hand, at our door waiting to get into this house.’”
Nice looking house
In social media comments, Stead’s beautiful home did not fit some expectations of RHA homes.
The home is not part of the RHA’s public housing portfolio, sometimes referred to as Section 8 housing. Rather, it is part of the RHA’s ‘Expanded Housing Options’ portfolio.
“The majority of our housing is geared toward low-income families,” Lopez said. “But depending on the funding source used, in some homes, we are able to serve community members in a broader income range.”
The four-bedroom house in Stead has been financed in a way that allows the RHA to rent it to a family earning up to 120% of the area median income.
HUD sets this level. In Washoe County for fiscal year 2022-23, the median income, for example, for a family of six is $108,400 annually — 120% of that would be $130,080.
This is the maximum annual income for a family of six to which the RHA can rent a Stead House, but it can also rent it to a family earning less.
As for the rent he charges, that’s up to the RHA as well.
While Lopez didn’t have the rent for this specific home on hand, she said, “Our board has pledged not to rent any unit owned or managed by RHA for more than 80% of market rate. We will always choose to rent at below market rate because affordable housing is what We do it.
Mark Robison covers local government for the Reno Gazette-Journal. His wages are funded 100% by donations and grants. His journalistic work serves the public good and is always free for all to read. If you would like to see more stories like this, please consider donating at RGJ.com/donate.
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