Amid skyrocketing rental costs, a powerful labor union wants North Las Vegans to decide if it’s time to impose rent controls in Nevada’s fourth most populous city.
The Culinary Workers Union Local 226 on Wednesday launched a ballot initiative that aims to keep rental prices from outpacing cost of living increases. The proposed ordinance, which would only affect North Las Vegas, would tie the cap on annual rent increases to the changes in consumer price index in North Las Vegas and additionally impose a maximum year-over-year cap on rent increases at 5 percent.
“North Las Vegans are being pushed out of their homes by rent increases that are among the highest in the nation. On top of 8½ percent inflation in gas and groceries, rising rents are a blow to working families who are still recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Ted Pappageorge, the union’s secretary-treasurer, in a press conference announcing the initiative.
Pappageorge said the proposed ordinance is an effort to blunt the impact large corporations and hedge funds have had on Southern Nevada’s rental market, noting that the top 10 apartment owners in Nevada own 26 percent of all rental units in the state.
“The corporate interests are raising rates through the roof. It is price gouging, clearly,” he said. “We are going to do something about it.”
Southern Nevada has seen one of the largest spikes in rental costs among the 50 largest metro areas in the U.S., according to a Realtor.com analysis, with median median rent in the Las Vegas valley rising more than 25 percent from February 2021 to February 2022.
The Nevada State Apartment Association questioned the proposal in a statement Wednesday, saying that rent caps have “never provided sound and effective solutions,” and arguing that the initiative would hinder the city’s ability to attract new businesses.
“With rent control in place, development and economic opportunities are tailored to satisfy needs, rather than offer opportunities for growth,” said Susy Vasquez, the association’s executive director, in a statement.
Aretha Wilder, a cocktail server on the Strip and a North Las Vegas resident for more than two decades, detailed her struggles with finding housing amid surging home prices and rental costs.
Speaking at the news conference, Wilder said she was pre-approved for a home loan and had money from a prior house sale for a down payment. But after putting in nine offers and only hearing back from one she realized she couldn’t compete with the higher, and often all-cash offers and switched her focus to looking for a place to rent.
She said it took three months and multiple rental applications before she finally found a place at $1,935 per month, and she’s expecting her rent to increase once her 12-month lease is up.
“As a renter, a lot of things are out of my control, and renting in this market means insecurity and instability,” she said.
Under state law, the group will need to gather signatures from 15 percent of the people who voted in the city’s last general election in 2019 to qualify and appear on the ballot in North Las Vegas this year. The signatures are due no later than 130 days before the election, which would be around early July.
In that 2019 election, there was only one race on the ballot and the total voter turnout was 3,169 in North Las Vegas, so the group appears to need signatures from only about 475 of those voters to qualify.
Pappageorge said they are already out gathering signatures, and promised that “it will be on the ballot in North Las Vegas this November. We are going to make sure of that.”
The proposed ordinance includes several exceptions where the rent controls would not apply, including rental units owned by a government agency; those that have a maximum of four rental units and where the landlord lives as their principal residence; for a period of 15 years for any rental unit built after May 18, 2022; units where the landlord is providing reduced rent as part of a government program; and units where the landlord owns only one rental unit in the city.