By Al Litman
Spring is nearly here. Mask mandates are over in Nevada and COVID-19 cases are on a steep decline. We can only hope the worst of the pandemic is behind us.
A few weeks ago, I delivered my State of the City address. It was the most positive one I have ever given. Mesquite is doing well. Current construction is booming, both commercial and residential.
Crown Cork and Seal have ordered their building materials and should start shortly. A number of other companies are in the pipelines, with plans being submitted almost daily to city hall.
You would think everything is on the right track, but we are facing a problem like nearly every other city; we need affordable housing, whatever that means in today’s economy.
Wages are going up, but for those who wish to own a home, or even rent in the current market, it’s become nearly impossible. It doesn’t seem to be a problem for those who are retiring here from places like California, where you can cash out a home for a small fortune and buy in Mesquite with lots of money left over.
Housing should not take up more than a fourth of a family’s income, but with today’s prices, it’s over half in many cases.
When writing this article, I thought back to my first home. It was brand new with 1,650 square feet on a nice sized lot in suburban Los Angeles. It cost $35,950, and the interest rate was a title over 7 percent.
We had good credit, so this was normal. Between Phyllis and myself, we grossed around $ 1,500 a month, and our house payment after 10 percent down was $227 a month, which included taxes and insurance.
If you do the math, our payment was around 20 percent of our income, including utilities. Very affordable.
Look at current prices in Mesquite. The average new home is around $400,000 without any upgrades or lot premiums. For those with excellent credit, you can figure about $80-90,000 upfront and a payment of several thousand a month without taxes and insurance. Never mind utilities, which can add another, $300 or more to the payment.
So what is the answer?
We need to change zoning where possible to allow denser housing, smaller homes and mixed residential. We need to overcome the “not in my back yard attitude” that is so prevalent in our city.
We need to think outside the box or we will be in the same situation that so many other cities are facing. We do not have enough workers because they cannot afford to live here. What worked in the past may not work in the future.
If we are to thrive we must become much more proactive in offering affordable land to developers, and cutting red tape in the planning process. There are solutions. We need to devote the time and energy to find them.
Al Litman is mayor of the city of Mesquite.