Carson City Housing Brief

Affordable Housing in Carson City

A recent analysis of Carson City affordable housing found about 1,500 units of unsubsidized “naturally occurring affordable housing,” sometimes referred to as NOAH, for very low income households. On the other hand, only about 500 subsidized units were available for very low income households. In other words, as late as the 2014 to 2018 period, about 75% of the affordable and available housing options for very low income households were NOAH, provided by the private market. 

What are these affordable options? They are older rental properties, most typically older multifamily apartments, but also include smaller “mom and pop” rental options such as duplexes, manufactured housing, smaller and older single family housing, and small studio units. In this particular analysis, homeowners with paid off mortgages or homes purchased many years ago made up a part of the NOAH as well.

However, the analysis found that number of NOAH units that were affordable and available to very low income households decreased considerably from the 2009 to 2013 period to the 2014 to 2018 period. This is likely due to demand outpacing supply as the economy recovered after the Great Recession.

If NOAH is such an important source of affordable housing, how can it be preserved? In addition to market pressures in tight housing markets, NOAH can be lost either to renovations that add high-end amenities to older housing, and which then becomes unaffordable, or on the opposite end of the spectrum, it can fall victim to a lack of maintenance and be razed, typically to make way for more expensive new housing. One way of preserving NOAH is to provide just the right amount of repair and maintenance, not so much that it requires higher rents and makes the old building attractive to higher income residents, but enough that it is functional for lower income residents. Doing so can be a profitable venture for socially minded investors. Several examples of these types of investment funds exist, for example, the NOAH Impact Fund in Minnesota, or the Washington Housing Initiative. For more information on preservation strategies for NOAH see, for example, the suggestions at the Housing Solutions Lab at New York University Furman Center.

To see the Carson City analysis go to the Carson City Housing Brief.