Last month, I went to San Francisco with a group of friends to see a musical. While the play was fantastic, and we had a great time, I left feeling sad, hopeless and scared for my hometown of Reno.
On nearly every corner on Market Street – a major thoroughfare that runs three miles from the waterfront to the hills in the southwest part of town – there was a homeless person huddled between the crevices of buildings or curled up on the sidewalk, staying close to their precious belongings. The most disturbing part is how many people simply looked past and even walked over these men and women.
As my friends and I walked toward the theater, the strong smell of urine permeated the streets and the stores we passed had signs written in red, bold letters, “Restrooms are for customers only.”
The trip opened my eyes. When I got back home to Reno, I made my weekly trek to my favorite eatery on the Truckee River. As I walked towards the restaurant, I could not help but notice the homeless people who lined the riverfront. It got me thinking about my time in San Francisco and an article I had recently read with the headline, “California housing problems are spilling into Nevada.”
Ever since Silicon Valley dubbed Reno the “next Silicon Valley” and companies like Tesla and Panasonic moved to our city, the social ills that plague Silicon Valley – gentrification, homelessness, lack of affordable housing – are becoming all too familiar within the Silver State.
In January 2012, the median cost to purchase a single-family home in Reno was $135,000. Today, that cost has ballooned to $375,000, up 18 percent from just a year ago. Similarly, in 2012 the median rental cost for a 2-bedroom/2-bath apartment was $883; by 2017 it had grown to $1244.
Economists and housing experts attribute these skyrocketing costs to anticipation of the influx of Silicon Valley-type companies.
Our state has long struggled to deal with critical issues, such as a high suicide rate, a sub-par education system and inadequate care for our youth. I know so many of us are striving to improve to make Nevada a better place to live.
With so much already on our plate, are we prepared to tackle the challenges that come with the ominous moniker of the next Silicon Valley?
We can only do so if we have policymakers guiding our city and state who care more about the working families who live here now rather than the bright and shiny promises of a Silicon Valley in the future.