Seniors’ subsidized rents rising

Hundreds of low-income senior citizens living in subsidized housing will soon have to pay more for rent, the Las Vegas Housing Authority board decided on Thursday.

The board voted 3-1 to increase by 5 percent the rent on 249 apartments and 71 mobile home park spaces for senior citizens. The increase, which is the first for the housing program in nearly a decade, goes into effect in July.

“Our costs go up every year,” said Carl Rowe, the housing authority’s executive director. “We could no longer afford not to increase” the rent.

Residents also will, from now on, face yearly rent increases tied to the U.S. Consumer Price Index.

“We’ve tried to keep rents low enough that it … wasn’t a hardship for anybody,” Rowe said. “But you have to keep pace. We have bills like every other business. It was as fair as we could possibly make it.”

He was booed by a number of senior citizen residents who attended the meeting.

Several spoke in opposition of the increase, saying they are on fixed incomes and can’t afford to pay more.

“We’ll have to choose between rent and food,” one woman said.

“We are being taken advantage of,” said another.

Board Commissioner Steve Ross, who is also a Las Vegas city councilman, opposed the measure.

“I care about the seniors,” he said. “I am not in full support of this.”

Rowe said if the housing authority doesn’t start charging more for rent in its affordable housing program, it would eventually have to “sell the properties to a commercial business.”

The affordable housing program is funded by the Las Vegas Housing Authority and uses no federal money, he said. Its budget is about $2 million a year and has been subsidized by revenue from other sources.

Those sources are drying up, Rowe said.

Residents in one bedroom apartments will see their rents go up about $16 a month. The highest rent paid for one bedrooms is currently $325, Rowe said. Rent for two bedroom apartments will go from $360 to $378 at the highest, he said. And mobile home park rents will go from $185 for a single-wide space and $205 for a double-wide to $194 and $215 respectively.

Voting for the increases were board chairman Father Dave Casaleggio and commissioners Haywood Carter and Brenda Williams. Commissioner Patrick Smith was absent.

“This is the hardest thing to do,” Casaleggio said. “But to be able to continue with the program, I believe this is truly necessary.”

The housing authority in the past has faced federal reviews that found it mismanaged funds and violated federal, state or local regulations.

Rowe was hired in 2006 to help clean up the agency’s messes. One of his first acts as director was to lay off dozens of the agency’s employees after being forced by federal officials to convert to a decentralized, “project-based” management style.

In defending Rowe on Thursday, Ross commended the sometimes unpopular decisions Rowe has made.

“Mr. Rowe wasn’t hired because he’s a super nice guy,” Ross said.

Contact reporter Lynnette Curtis at lcurtis@reviewjournal.com or (702) 383-0285.

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