Teachers and minimum wage workers alike are currently struggling to afford housing costs in Nevada cities.
Data shows that housing costs in Nevada’s two largest metropolitan areas have risen sharply over the last six years. According to Zumper, a rental listing platform, the average price of a one-bedroom apartment in Reno is about $1,350 a month, which is almost double the average rate from November 2014, and the Las Vegas area has seen a similar rise.
Homeownership is especially out of the question for many of the state’s workers. A recent report from University of Nevada, Las Vegas’ (UNLV) Lincy Institute and the Brookings Mountain West Bureau reveals that wages for the most common occupations in Reno and Las Vegas are on average not high enough to afford a median-valued home.
Data from Redfin charts the increasing costs of homeownership over the years. In May 2017, the median price for a Reno home was $325,000. Now, it’s $580,000. In the same time frame, the median sale price for a Las Vegas home was recorded at $230,000 in 2017. Today, the median price is $438,000.
Teachers in Nevada, who according to the National Education Association have an average starting salary of $41,277, are often priced out of the cities in which they teach, and in some cases, like Savannah Parsons, it is more cost effective to live in a hotel room rather than renting or owning a home.
Parsons, a high school English teacher at the Washoe County School District, pays $900 a month to live in a four-bedroom, one bathroom unit on the first floor of the Silver Dollar Hotel in Virginia City, 25 miles out of Reno. Though the space has no washer, no dryer, no dishwasher, no driveway, no closets, no backyard, and barely enough room for her fiancé and two pitbull-lab mixes, renting in Reno would cost almost double what they pay now, unattainable even given her fiancé’s income plus her $38,000 a year salary.
“It’s disappointing to me,” Parsons said. “I feel like I’ve dedicated my life to a community I can’t afford to be a part of.”
The inability for districts to recruit and retain teachers has led to a teacher shortage. Meanwhile, minimum wage workers are similarly struggling.
While Assembly Bill 456 facilitated the minimum wage increase to $10.50 an hour ($9.50 with health benefits) on July 1st and is set to increase in 75-cent intervals until July 2024, the state’s lowest paid workers are still feeling the heat of rising inflation costs, stagnating wages, and a cutthroat housing market.
Rikyyah Washington makes $13 hourly plus commission working at a temporary tattoo booth in downtown Las Vegas’ Fremont Street Experience, earning more than the 0.9 percent of workers in Nevada who earn at or less than minimum wage, and “it’s still not even enough to live,” she said.
“I live paycheck to paycheck,” added Washington. “I get a check, I help out my mom, food plus other bills and expenses I have, then I only have like $200 to save. But I’m 21, I want to go out and have fun and have life experiences. It’s a struggle.”
More action is necessary to uplift Nevada’s teachers and wage workers, like Parsons and Washington, from the cycle of poverty and provide economic incentives and opportunities for these essential workers.