Residents seek answers after millions of federal dollars for North Las Vegas neighborhood ‘vanish’
Residents of Windsor Park in North Las Vegas, a hilly community overlooking the Las Vegas Strip, said at a press conference Wednesday morning they want to know what happened with funds allocated during the 1990s to shore up the neighborhood or relocate homeowners. They said the answer would bring them closer to justice.
State and federal governments allocated more than $14.4 million for home repairs or relocations after the neighborhood became unsafe and threatened by subsidence — sinking of the ground because of groundwater overuse — during the 1980s, and has remained that way ever since.
Where the funds actually went has been hard to track. But one thing is certain, residents say — the funding did not solve the issue.
Now North Las Vegas is under investigation by the Department of Housing and Urban Development — seeking answers for residents. The investigation, which is an audit that Sen. Dina Neal (D-North Las Vegas) said started in May, is looking to find the distribution of funds from the Windsor Park Project.
“The money, it seems like it just vanished,” said Myrtle Wilson, 81, a Windsor Park resident since 1965, inside Wednesday’s event at Macedonia Missionary Baptist Church. Nearly 30 people had gathered to ask for answers surrounding the ongoing lack of transparency regarding funds allocated 30 years ago for a remedy that never came.
This comes after lawmakers passed the Windsor Park Environmental Justice Act, SB450, during the 2023 Legislature, which will allocate $12 million from the state housing division and apply $25 million in coronavirus relief dollars to purchase and develop land to relocate residents from the hazardous community. The law went into effect July 1.
Details regarding the original fund to help Windsor Park residents remain inaccessible beyond 1999, according to North Las Vegas Deputy Chief of Staff Delen Goldberg. City officials were also unable to clarify expenditures ranging from $170,000 to $2.5 million between 2013 to 2020 allocated for Windsor Park in North Las Vegas city budgets.
Despite sharing the belief that more needs to be done in the area, city officials disagree with residents regarding the outcome of the “Windsor Park Project.” They’ve called it successful in past public hearings because some residents were able to take $50,000 to $100,000 grants and relocate during the '90s. The situation strained relations between homeowners and city leaders, causing some residents to remain skeptical.
“What are they gonna do?” Wilson said of city officials. “They're gonna hold on to [the funds] for X amount of years and then it just goes into a fund that disappears — like it has done already.”
Neal, who sponsored SB450, said that after receiving an update about the audit she learned that Clark County is expected to help North Las Vegas answer questions pertaining to the investigation.
“So then I said, how was that possible? The city should answer to the state, but there should be no middleman or intervention,” she said of Clark County.
Racism, displacement and redlining Windsor Park
The once segregated Black neighborhood in North Las Vegas, commonly called Winslow Park, was built between 1964 and 1966 and had been described as a “Black Summerlin” in its heyday.
Longtime resident Barbara Carter said people were driven to buy homes in Windsor Park during the ’60s because of segregation and displacement from constructing Interstate 15. Carter said the highway stretched across land that was home to mostly Black people because of segregationist laws. She said there were about three places Black people could live in Southern Nevada at that time.
“My husband and I, when we moved into Windsor Park as a young couple, our [reason] was first of all, ownership … which was for us,” Carter said. “And then pass it on to our children. Now, what do we have to pass on to our children? A house that gets cracks in the walls, cracks in the ceilings.”
Besides the crumbling homes, Carter said residents pay property taxes and have not received investments into the community, citing loads of trash accumulating in empty lots, cracked streets and “buckling” pavement — practices that Leslie Kern, author of the book Gentrification is Inevitable and Other Lies, ties back to a system of redlining.
Redlining refers to systems of discrimination such as denial of mortgages or financial services to residents of certain areas based on race or ethnicity, causing wealth disparities. Kern said that redlining includes methods to shut off financial support to whole neighborhoods that lead to the neglect of garbage pickup and infrastructure maintenance.
Wilson said the history of North Las Vegas is rooted in racism and that at one point, Black and Latino people weren’t welcome in the city limits. Carter stated that they had to stay south of Miller Avenue, a street in the Vegas Heights neighborhood.
“And there's still a few that's holding on to that theory — that we don't belong, which we have every right, we are citizens,” Wilson said.
Carter said simple things, such as street maintenance, could have helped prevent the tension between residents and city officials over the decades.
“Just let us feel like we’re worthy,” she said. “Let us feel like we’re a part of society and not just throw us away.”