The housing hardship

Bob Fulkerson has been director of both Citizen Alert and the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada.

On Aug. 6, the Reno Gazette Journal published an essay by lobbyist Pat Cashill. It can be read at The RGJ declined to carry a competing view, so here is one.

Pat Cashill is certainly correct that housing is a complex problem requiring multi-faceted solutions, but I’m disappointed in him and our city and state leaders for ignoring the role economic inequality plays in our housing crisis.

Homelessness and the housing crisis are not a force of nature, but are created as a natural result of our economy the elite have rigged to benefit themselves. According to a recent report from the Economic Policy Institute, Reno was 26th most unequal city out of 900 metro areas, and Nevada was the fourth most unequal state.

As the Nevada Current reported, “From 2009 to 2015, as the nation was recovering from the Great Recession, the top 1 percent in Nevada captured 81 percent of the state’s overall income growth—a higher percentage than in any other state during that period.”

Cashill and our city council prefer to put their faith in the “free market,” where building more of more will magically bring down costs and solve the crisis. Our housing crisis will never be solved as long as we accept that people/businesses like the union-busting Carano’s/Eldorado pay $7.9 million to their top executive ($3,819.25./hr) while their workers make an average of $26,000 per year.

Our housing crisis will never be solved when Economic Development Authority of Western Nevada, the Governor’s Office of Economic Development and the Legislature, with the blessing of the city council, lure billionaire corporations here with tax breaks, jacking up the cost of housing overnight and creating a situation where almost half the workers here can’t afford the rent. Apple, Switch, Google, Tesla are not paying a dime in taxes to help solve the housing and other infrastructure problems they helped create.

Our housing crisis will never be solved as long as workers don’t make a living wage. We need a city council that will fight for increasing the minimum wage so workers can afford to live here, as Jenny Brekhus did in supporting Fight for $15.

Our housing crisis will never be solved when so many Reno renters are trapped in a cycle of debt by predatory lenders. Ending the practice of charging an average of 652 percent interest is key to putting money back into the hands of workers. Our housing crisis will never be solved as long as cash bail means jail for the poor, causing them to lose their jobs and housing. Our housing crisis will never be solved in a state with the fifth most unfair tax system in the U.S., where poor and working class subsidize the wealthy who have rigged Nevada’s tax system for themselves.

So, yes, Mr. Cashill, it is a complex problem. And it will only be solved by demanding and enacting solutions that will undoubtedly offend Reno and Nevada’s elites who have been robbing our communities since statehood.