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Perspective may be biggest hurdle in housing shortage

Chris Karsaz
Chris Karsaz
A house under construction in Fernley as seen on Thursday, Nov. 16, 2017. Photo by David Calvert/The Nevada Independent.

From land and construction costs to NIMBYism, there are real obstacles to expanding our state’s housing supply. The greatest hurdle, however, may be a shift in perspective: viewing landlords as natural allies, not the enemy. Building more housing will not only benefit landlords and tenants, it will address the perceived imbalance of power advanced by tenant advocates. If we view the housing shortage itself as the problem and stop the blanket vilification of housing providers, the real work of fixing our housing crisis may begin.

The 100-year-old bias against landlords is as real today as it is outdated. The term landlord still evokes negative connotations of medieval serfdom, yet, the modern example of a landlord could not be further removed. Housing providers range from average Americans who saved to buy and rent a home as their business and retirement plan to institutional investors who seek a safe and conservative return for pension funds. They all work hard to make their homes appealing to their tenants and they all dutifully served Nevadans during the pandemic as the only industry required to provide services without payment. They, and many more, will all be needed to help fix our housing crisis moving forward.

The phrases supply chain issues and inflation have recently entered our social lexicon in reference to items such as computer chips, vehicles, eggs and other groceries. Many Americans are now dealing with shortages of such items and inflated costs for the first time, yet the housing industry is no stranger to supply shortages and inflation, and has been coping with them for decades. These issues cause a ripple effect on housing, increasing the cost of a product that is already limited and in high-demand.

It’s promising that other sectors feeling pressured by supply chain issues, such as the shortage in computer chips, has led many policy makers to encourage investments in domestic chip manufacturing. Imagine the wasted time and misdirection that would have resulted from vilifying computer chip manufacturers instead. It may have been politically expedient, but we would be no closer to solving our reliance on foreign supply chains for computer chips.

Similarly, other factors, such as the steady rate of the California exodus, likely means that our state will continue to see a rise in housing demand. We cannot afford to delay.   

Housing is no different than computer chips. If we can shift our perspective away from vilifying housing providers and focus on the real problem at hand, just imagine what we could accomplish. Can we make more Bureau of Land Management land available for use? Can we remove development barriers and reduce construction costs and time? Can we help finance the development of affordable housing? Can we inspire the NIMBYs to become YIMBYs?

Current proposed legislation such as AB213, which would address residential zoning requirements, would help address some of these concerns but there is more work that can be done. We can alleviate current obstacles to housing if we start viewing housing providers as part of the solution. 

Just like domestic chip manufacturing, the problem will not be solved overnight. It must be a long-term commitment to building, building and more building. So let’s begin.

Chris Karsaz is the founder and principal attorney for Karsaz Law, a full-service law firm representing residential and commercial property owners and managers. Karsaz Law also serves as counsel for the Nevada State Apartment Association.


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