The Washoe County Board of Commissioners took the first steps toward creating a new way to help the affordable housing crisis. The Affordable Housing Trust Fund would use public money to provide incentives to private investors to build more affordable units.

"With more of our multi-family projects coming online, those price points are rising, so it's difficult for even families to find a place to stay as they move in from the area," Kate Thomas, Assistant County Manager said.

J.D. Klippenstein is the Executive Director of ACTIONN, a group working to find solutions to the housing crisis. He says the Truckee Meadows is already about 11,000 affordable units behind where it should be, and that Reno's rents increased at one of the highest rates in the country, last year.

"The folks living on the street continue to increase and thousands of people are stuck in weekly motels and there really aren't other options out there," Klippenstein said. 

One sticking point is how to fund the proposal.

"Local governments are struggling," Thomas said. "We don't have a lot of resources. We talked a little bit about an identified resource that's a potential for the Washoe County Commission to implement."

That resource would be a Supplemental Government Services Tax. Conservative estimates show that it could generate an additional $13 million in the first year. The original proposal would dedicate $5 million to $8 million to the trust fund. Klippenstein says the tax would be a one percent increase in the formula that determines DMV registration fees. He says it would amount to and additional $40 for a car, valued at $20,000.

"People don't like fees," Klippenstein said. "We get that but 27 people last year died on the street, in Washoe County, and more and more people are dealing with homelessness and housing insecurity, and the vast number of people we talked to are willing to pay 40 more dollars a year if they can make sure that millions more are going towards affordable housing. "

"It will take a little time to, not only develop the ordinance, but to also identify the funding source and that larger conversation around the tax base or what potential funding sources we have has to happen in order for us to move forward."

Klippenstein says it would take about a year before the funds would be available. The commissioners will review the draft ordinance in January, and could possibly approve the measure. It would also talk to the cities of Reno and Sparks to decide how to allocate the revenue.

"We have to look at this whole situation, regionally," Thomas said. "What happens to keep people in their house? What happens when they lose their home and what we can do as a region to help sustain the housing situation?"

Affordable housing is considered as 30 percent of household income. Klippenstein says that means many people need housing that costs $300-$800 per month to make ends meet.

"Otherwise, you see 50-60 percent going to their rent and they're accessing social services, they're going to food banks, they're going to all these places, trying to stretch their dollar other ways," Klippenstein said.

The affordable housing component could include multi-family units, workforce housing, and sober housing.

"The targeting for funds in the conversation have been for both low-income residents but also for people who are working full-time jobs who can't buy a home or can't find affordable rent," Klippenstein said.

He says a family of four with an annual income of about $60,000 could qualify for workforce housing if the trust fund is created.

"We're going to starve ourselves, essentially, if we don't start to think about how local revenue is used and we need our elected officials to think about that much more critically now, rather than waiting for some magic wand to fall onto their lap," Klippenstein said.