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In letter, Lombardo urges Biden to make more public land available for housing development

Lombardo attributed the heart of Nevada’s housing affordability problem to the lack of land available for development.
Tabitha Mueller
Tabitha Mueller

As President Joe Biden heads to Nevada on Tuesday, Republican Gov. Joe Lombardo sent a letter to the president highlighting the state’s housing crisis and requesting Biden streamline the process of making federal land available for affordable housing development.

With 85 percent of Nevada’s land owned and managed by the federal government, Lombardo wrote that the federal government’s lack of collaboration with the state had limited Nevada’s ability to build affordable rental housing — a problem Lombardo wrote that Biden’s administration could help solve by allocating more federal land for housing development.

“The federal process for privatizing land for development is too slow, too complex, and contributes to higher costs for Nevada families seeking homeownership,” Lombardo wrote. “I urge you to cut the bureaucratic red tape that prevents Nevada communities from achieving their housing and economic development goals.”

Specifically, Lombardo asked the president to direct the Department of the Interior to update the 18 Resource Management Plans that govern the state’s public lands or craft a new statewide plan. Lombardo acknowledged that updating the plans could take time and money, but said the federal government needs to streamline the often years-long process of making federal land available for housing development.

In a social media post on Tuesday, Rep. Susie Lee (D-NV) said she agreed with the governor and said reducing barriers to affordable housing is a bipartisan issue.

 “I hope you will endorse my bipartisan AACE (Accelerating Appraisals and Conservation Efforts) Act to cut red tape and get housing projects moving on public lands,” Lee wrote in a response to a post made by Lombardo.

The act, which seeks to expedite infrastructure, conservation and housing projects by ensuring certain public land transactions are completed effectively and efficiently by increasing access to qualified and cost-competitive appraisers, passed out of the U.S. House Natural Resources Committee with unanimous support last week and awaits a vote in the House of Representatives.

A spokesperson for the governor did not immediately respond to a query about whether Lombardo supports the legislation.

The National Low Income Housing Coalition estimates that Nevada has a shortage of more than 78,000 rental homes that would be affordable and available for extremely low-income renters.

Lombardo — who made a similar pitch for the “timely release” of BLM-managed land in his inaugural State of the State address last year — sent the letter after he again attributed the heart of Nevada’s housing affordability problem to the lack of land available for development during IndyTalks, a wide-ranging conversation with the governor hosted by The Nevada Independent in early March. At the time, Lombardo said the state was “hamstrung” on the availability of land. He added that costs associated with land and construction have hindered development, leading to less supply, more demand and out-of-reach housing costs for residents. 

In November 2023, the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development released a memorandum of understanding seeking to improve procedures surrounding public land disposal for affordable housing under the Southern Nevada Public Land Management Act. Lombardo said that the guidance has not led to any “material improvement” in getting that land into the hands of people who need it.

The letter also comes a day after Nevada Sens. Jacky Rosen and Catherine Cortez Masto publicly urged Senate leaders to hold a hearing on Rosen’s lands bill for Washoe County. Congress has not passed a Nevada lands bill since 2006.

Lombardo’s letter also pointed out the recent allocation of 500,000 acres for the Avi Kwa Ame National Monument in Southern Nevada, saying that if the Biden administration addressed the state’s housing crisis with a similar fervor, the state could better handle the housing crisis. 

An additional 50,000 acres in Southern Nevada, or 10 percent of the national monument designation, Lombardo wrote, would double the land available for development in Clark County. He added that without new available land, Clark County will run out of room to grow by 2032. Other areas of the state, he said, are facing similar problems.

“Nevada can no longer afford the federal government’s broken and backlogged bureaucracy,” Lombardo wrote. “We need the federal government to be a partner in addressing the housing crisis and act immediately to reduce the barriers and bureaucracy that stand between Nevada families and affordable homes.”

This story was updated on 3/19/2021 to include a response from Rep. Susie Lee (D-NV).


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