Affordable housing and homelessness advocates in Nevada secured significant victories in the state legislature during the 2021 session. The new state policies address equitable housing access, expand tenant protections, and mitigate the risk of homelessness for Nevadans facing eviction due to the current economic crisis.
Homelessness and housing groups across the state were active throughout the session and worked to advance these policy priorities. The Nevada Homeless Alliance, the Nevada Housing Coalition, and Faith in Action Nevada hosted a virtual Homelessness and Housing Awareness Day event on April 5 with over 50 advocates, including people directly impacted by homelessness and housing instability. These and other groups, including the Nevada Coalition of Legal Service Providers, the Nevada Policy Council on Homelessness and the Nevada Partnership for Homeless Youth, championed legislation and led advocacy efforts throughout the session.
The COVID-19 pandemic has negatively impacted Nevadans’ housing and economic stability. Advocates worked with legislators to introduce several bills to mitigate COVID-related evictions and to address long-standing policy issues related to affordable housing production and preservation. Advocates also worked to advance equitable housing policy to remove housing barriers for renters with a conviction history and who utilize housing subsidies. Additionally, a special focus was put on improving access to medical and school-based services for youth experiencing homelessness.
Key bills passed by the legislature include:
- AB486 provides new eviction protections that require courts to stay eviction proceedings when the tenant has applied for and is awaiting an approval or denial for rental assistance. This legislation marries the rental assistance process with eviction legal proceedings to ensure that the federal dollars are utilized and exhausted prior to an eviction being granted—and will allow a tenant to defend against an eviction if they can prove a landlord is refusing to accept rental assistance that was available.
- SB254 strengthens the authority of the Nevada Equal Rights Commission (NERC) to investigate and enforce Nevada Fair Housing Law and creates limitations on how conviction history may be considered in the rental application process in some rentals (excludes most properties other than apartment complexes). This bill creates a pathway for Nevada to join 35 other States to create a HUD-Qualified Fair Housing Assistance Program (FHAP) through the NERC and expands NERC’s ability to enforce Nevada’s Fair Housing Laws.
- AB141 allows for summary eviction cases that occur during the pandemic for non-payment of rent to be automatically sealed.
- AB197 eliminates an arbitrary time requirement in Nevada law that required unaccompanied minors experiencing homelessness to live on their own away from their parents or legal guardians for a minimum of four months prior to being able to consent to critical medical services. It also expands the types of healthcare services youth can access to include behavioral healthcare services.
- SB354 requires the Department of Education to develop a statewide framework for restorative justice and requires School Districts to assess the students living situation during each incident of school discipline to deploy restorative justice and connect student to services as an alternative to out-of-school suspension.
- SB12 requires a one-year notification by affordable housing owners before either early termination or expiration of affordability restrictions.
- SB284 removes the sunset of the newly created state tax credit from the 2019 legislative session and provides some provisions to make this tool more effective.
Not all legislation championed by housing and homelessness advocates were successful, including a statewide source of income provision under AB317 and SB254, but advocates are committed to continued work to ensure that state, local and federal policymakers advance affordable housing and homelessness solutions in Nevada.
More information on each of these bills is available in the 2021 legislative summary from the Nevada Homeless Alliance and the Policy Council on Homelessness.