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Home repair nonprofit helps Las Vegans, but Clark County a no-go

Updated December 25, 2017 - 3:18 pm

Louise Jones owns a washer and dryer but has been a regular at her local laundromat for two years.

The 87-year-old Air Force veteran said she was scared to use the appliances in her eastern Las Vegas home. Washing clothes caused her water heater to crackle loudly.

“You think it’s just going to go ‘kaboom,’” Jones said.

Installed in 2003, the water heater was well past its point of retirement this year. A replacement typically costs hundreds of dollars, but Johnson received a new one for free this month through Rebuilding Together Southern Nevada.

The nonprofit arranges for free repairs and renovations to the homes of hundreds of low-income families in Las Vegas, North Las Vegas and Henderson, said Executive Director Bob Cleveland.

But the services stop at the municipalities’ city limits because Rebuilding Together gets no funding from Clark County.

“We could do as many (home repairs) in unincorporated Clark County as we do in the rest of the valley combined if we had the funding,” he said.

Aging homes

Rebuilding Together received nearly 330 requests for service in unincorporated parts of the county during the past fiscal year.

“It’s the first time we’ve tracked the numbers in detail, but we feel like that’s a pretty normal number,” Cleveland said.

Most requests were from homes located east of Interstate 15 and inside the geographical district of County Commissioner Chris Giunchigliani.

“It’s a wonderful district, but it’s got a lot of the older institutions, infrastructure, parks and housing,” Giunchigliani said. “So it’s going to have a lot of the need.”

Jack Woodcock, a Las Vegas Realtor since 1974, said he’s not surprised by the areas that submit the most requests.

“Everything on the east side is the oldest housing stock we have in the valley,” he said. “After being out in the desert for 50 years they’ve started to deteriorate, and you can certainly expect the roof having to be repaired or replaced.”

Funding restrictions

Las Vegas and Henderson each typically award $100,000 to $200,000 in grants annually to Rebuilding Together Southern Nevada, Cleveland said.

North Las Vegas last awarded the nonprofit money in 2015, but Rebuilding Together continued doing work there through March.

County commissioners last month publicly discussed whether to request the cities allow some of their funds be spent in the unincorporated county. Cleveland said there is likely not enough to go around.

“We never make it to the end of our fiscal year with money. The need is always there,” he said. “Our average client lives off $900 a month. They can’t afford a $6,000 roof even if they make payments for the rest of their life.”

Its also unlikely the cities could pay for repairs outside their jurisdictions.

The money comes from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Community Development Block Grant program, which requires funds to be spent in the jurisdiction that administers them.

HUD spokesman Ed Cabrera said his staff couldn’t find any examples of such an exception being made.

Answers needed

County commissioners are expected to discuss early next year how best to provide critical home repairs to their constituents.

County records show that Rebuilding Together applied for grant monies for the past four years but did not receive any.

Without the nonprofit’s assistance, Cleveland said, the mounting needs for repairs will continue to go unaddressed.

“We’re the only ones who do roofs. We’re the only ones who do water heaters. We’re the only ones who do (Americans with Disabilities Act) modifications, to the extent we do them,” he said.

The repairs extend far beyond that as well.

At Jones’ home, Rebuilding Together also replaced the air conditioning system, windows and smoke detectors, among other improvements.

Cleveland said the work was worth about $25,000. For Jones, it was invaluable.

“It’s like a whole new house, and I don’t have to do anything,” she said. “It’s unbelievable.”

Contact Michael Scott Davidson at sdavidson@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3861. Follow @davidsonlvrj on Twitter.

(Las Vegas Review-Journal)

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