Less than two months after the Mesquite City Council decided that the lack of workforce housing was its most important strategic goal, the council received its first report from a newly formed task force to tackle the issue at their meeting March 10.
City Director of Development Services Richard Secrist presented key findings from a survey showing that Mesquite’s median income is between $30,358 and $60,716. “That’s $17,203 a year lower than the median income of Clark County overall,” Secrist said.
Six major Mesquite employers were recently surveyed and reported a combined total of 1,815 hourly employees, with an overall average wage rate (excluding tips) of $12.50 an hour. “An employee at this wage working full-time would make approximately $26,000 a year. It would take one and a half full-time jobs at this wage to afford fair market rent for a two bedroom apartment,” Secrist said.
According to the report, “if households within this bracket spend no more than 30 percent of their income on housing and utilities, they can afford to spend $759 to $1,518 per month respectively,” based on median incomes.
Secrist outlined four goals of the task force: identify and remove barriers for housing construction; develop incentive packages, both regulatory and financial for builders of workforce housing; bring builders and property owners together; and regularly update demand studies to stay abreast of the number of units needed.
Secrist said barriers could be the cost of land, regulatory requirements or a shortage of construction labor.
While the city’s goal is to see 100 to 200 units of workforce housing built in the next year, Councilman Brian Wursten said a private study recently completed identified a need for approximately 1,600 units overall. “Growth in the city isn’t going to happen until we’re able to house people,” Wursten said.
City Manager Aaron Baker said the task force will continue providing updates on its work to the council every other month.
Shonna Dooman, Las Vegas Field Manager for the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), provided the council an update on three projects her office is working on in the local area: Gold Butte National Monument (GBNM); Virgin River flood protection project; and the Mesquite portion of the Virgin River restoration project.
The flood protection project drew the most attention and feedback, some negative, from the council, staff and residents.
Dooman said the project scope includes building a levee and detention basin on the Virgin River to help protect the city from another major flood similar to those that happened in 2005 and 2010.
She said the project has recently been assigned to a senior real estate specialist within her office “to make sure the project moves forward.”
Cultural, biological and botanical surveys must be completed along with design work for the levee and basin. Her office must also consult with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the U.S. Corps of Army Engineers.
Councilman George Gault complained to Dooman that it’s very difficult to get her staff to communicate with anyone regarding the flood project. “You talk about a flood project that’s going to protect homes from flooding and we can’t get you on the phone,” he said.
She responded that the senior specialist recently assigned to the project should help alleviate that problem.
Wursten echoed Gault’s complaints saying the city had approved its portion of the project two and a half years ago “and you just now assigned it to someone in your office. We haven’t seen any movement on this at all. There’s no time schedule for anything you just presented. It’s just a list of things that have to be done.”
Councilman George Rapson pressed Dooman on providing a timeline saying, “This isn’t your first rodeo. You’ve done these projects before. We want a timeline.”
Dooman relented and said she would provide a preliminary schedule by the end of the month.
Significant amounts of damage to homes occurred on the east side of Mesquite during the 2005 flood while minor flooding occurred during the 2010 flood. Several residents who live in that area spoke about the problems they’ve had since then.
Flood zone insurance is costing some homeowners between $1,500 and $3,000 a year. “This has been going on for 15 years,” one homeowner said. “I don’t understand what the BLM’s problem is. Why does a bird or a fish take precedent over human life and property? When the floods come, that fish is in Lake Mead.”
Other residents said they become concerned and scared when major storms occur up-river in St. George or southern Utah. “After the floods, the river is much closer to us now than it used to be,” another homeowner said. “I don’t get scared when it rains here. I get scared when it rains up north.”
Dooman said her office is working on three areas within GBNM-Whitney Pockets, Falling Man and Kirk’s Grotto-to provide kiosks, restrooms and trails. She said the project is being funded through the Southern Nevada Public Lands Management Act (SNPLMA) for planning and construction.
Additional funding is now available to hire permanent staff for the monument including a manager and outdoor recreation planner, Dooman said.
She expects the Virgin River restoration project to begin in September and include 50 acres in the local area. Tamarisk will be removed, and cottonwood, ash, and willow trees will be planted.