The valley's three public housing authorities, tasked with helping provide affordable housing for the poor, took another step Thursday toward consolidating into a single "superagency" that would be among the country's largest housing authorities.
Administrators from the Las Vegas, North Las Vegas and Clark County housing authorities made official their plan to begin exploring a merger during a board meeting of the Southern Nevada Regional Planning Coalition.
Douglas Lyon, organization effectiveness administrator for Clark County, spoke on behalf of administrators of the three agencies.
"I have good news for you," Lyon told board members. "All of us at this point in time are in unison that we should move forward in exploring the concept of regionalizing the housing authorities."
Many have long argued that combining the agencies, which have a collective budget of about $109 million, would save money needed for housing by curbing staffing, paperwork and other costs.
The agencies together have about 250 employees, manage 3,170 public housing units and nearly 9,000 Section 8 vouchers. The vouchers can be used to rent housing anywhere landlords will accept them.
Nobody is sure how much money the agencies would save by consolidating or "regionalizing."
The housing authorities have for years bandied about the idea, but talks have fallen apart amid questions about who would manage the combined agency, concerns about taking on the problems of fellow agencies and other issues.
Now, all three agencies appear to be committed to working together on the plan.
"This is an exciting day," said Clark County Commissioner Chris Giunchigliani, who is also a member of the coalition's board.
Giunchigliani and fellow County Commissioner Rory Reid helped spur renewed consolidation talks months ago.
"We don't need a bifurcated system," Giunchigliani said. "It's not about us. It's about the people that we're trying to get into a home. We can ... make it simpler, streamline it, make it more efficient."
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development would have to approve any merger, and it also would require a legislative change at the state level.
Renewed talks about regionalizing come at a time when other big changes are afoot in the local public housing world.
Both the North Las Vegas and Las Vegas agencies have plans to demolish much of their public housing and replace it with mixed-income or Section 8 housing.
Critics of public housing say it traps families in a cycle of poverty.