Washoe County, NV, is working to address the inequitable affordable housing shortage and its impact on reduced climate resilience by modifying development codes, policies, and processes to streamline and incentivize affordable housing development. The FUSE Executive Fellow will partner with FUSE to help design and implement affordable housing policy changes that will increase housing availability and inventory, thereby helping build essential foundations for addressing climate change and fostering sustainable, equitable, and resilient communities.
Fellowship Dates: October 23, 2023 – October 21, 2024
Salary: Executive Fellows are FUSE employees and receive an annual base salary of $80,000. Fellows can also access various health, dental, and vision insurance benefits. Compensation for this year of public service is not intended to represent market-rate compensation for the experienced professionals in our program.
ABOUT THE FUSE EXECUTIVE FELLOWSHIP
FUSE is a national nonprofit working to expand social and economic opportunities, particularly for communities that have been limited by a history of systemic and institutionalized racism. FUSE partners with local governments and communities to more effectively address pressing challenges by placing experienced professionals within city and county agencies. These FUSE Executive Fellows lead strategic projects designed to advance racial equity and accelerate systems change. Since 2012, FUSE has led over 250 projects in 40 governments across 20 states, impacting the lives of 25 million people.
Executive Fellows are hired as FUSE employees and embedded in government agencies for at least one year of full-time work. They receive FUSE training, coaching, and professional support throughout their fellowships to help achieve their project goals. FUSE Executive Fellows bring diverse perspectives and new approaches to their projects. They build strong relationships with diverse arrays of stakeholders, foster alignment within and across various layers of government, and build partnerships between governments and communities.
In northern Nevada, Washoe County encompasses the cities of Reno and Sparks, extending north to the Oregon border and west to California, including the Lake Tahoe community of Incline Village / Crystal Bay. The region has experienced increasing housing costs recently, creating affordability challenges for many residents. The demand for housing has outpaced the supply of affordable units, leading to rising rents and a higher cost burden for residents, particularly in low-income and historically disinvested communities. According to the National Assoc. of Home Builders and Wells Fargo Housing Opportunity Index (HOI), the Reno/Sparks area is one of the least affordable regions in the U.S. (in the bottom 20% when looking at what percentage of an area's median income households can afford a home; data for Q1 2023). This results in residents relocating to more affordable areas or sacrificing necessities such as food or healthcare to pay the rent. This damages the county’s workforce and economic development potential, increases commute times for private transit, contributes to greenhouse gas emissions and adverse climate change effects, and threatens its citizens' overall well-being and quality of life.
Washoe County is currently working to address this inequitable affordable housing shortage by modifying development codes, policies, and procedures to streamline and incentivize affordable housing development; offering incentives and reducing barriers to developers; and designing new strategies to improve affordable housing development and access in the unincorporated County, especially for historically disinvested communities.
Washoe County will partner with FUSE to help research, design, and implement development code and process modifications to increase housing affordability and availability. The FUSE Executive Fellow will: conduct a detailed landscape analysis and listening tour; research successful policy design for similar initiatives; engage with relevant stakeholders; and draft modified policy language to help incentivize and accelerate affordable housing development. This work will help Washoe County achieve its goal of increasing affordable housing inventory, encouraging housing retention in vulnerable neighborhoods, and maximizing local economic impacts for the community. This will help build an essential foundation for addressing climate change and foster a sustainable, equitable, and resilient Washoe County.
PROJECT SUMMARY & POTENTIAL DELIVERABLES
Beginning in October 2023, the FUSE Executive Fellow will work with county agencies, private developers, and community stakeholders to develop policies, practices, and initiatives that increase affordable housing options in the unincorporated County. Ultimately, this will help Washoe County improve climate resilience by increasing access for vulnerable populations to safe and affordable housing; stimulate economic investment in the community; contribute to workforce development by providing housing options near employment opportunities; and promote social equity, community stability, and inclusion.
The Executive Fellow will begin by understanding the current landscape of affordable housing development policies and practices in Washoe County, including changes already prioritized by the County Commission for implementation. The Executive Fellow will conduct a listening tour with relevant stakeholders, including county agencies, developers, and community members, regarding their perceptions, priorities, concerns, and ideas. The Executive Fellow will focus on vulnerable communities throughout this process to identify initiatives prioritizing benefits to high-risk, historically disinvested communities most impacted by the affordable housing shortage and negative impacts of climate change. The Executive Fellow will research similar, successful programs nationwide to serve as a model.
The Executive Fellow will use the collected information and insights to draft modified language for the Washoe County Development Code and other relevant policies/procedures that will increase the affordable housing inventory. This may include regulations and standards that allow higher-density development or mixed-use zoning, streamline review and permitting processes, and allow for more flexible design standards such as simplified codes or expedited approval processes. By making targeted changes to these processes, Washoe County can incentivize developers better to initiate new affordable housing projects.
The Executive Fellow will also work to improve processes/policies to increase funding mechanisms, tax incentives, and regulatory measures to incentivize the development and preservation of affordable housing units. They will work to address barriers and identify relevant public-private partnerships and regional plans or policies that may influence future decisions, direction, and project implementation. This will include conducting stakeholder engagement meetings and building relationships with various stakeholders to increase county and community buy-in for the proposed code modifications, thereby helping to ensure long-term program success.
By October 2024, the Executive Fellow will have overseen the following:
- Conduct a thorough review of the current landscape- Conduct background research and a listening tour to become familiar with the county’s existing affordable housing codes, policies, and processes; engage with all relevant stakeholders, including county agencies, private businesses, and community members to better understand their perspectives, priorities, concerns, and ideas concerning affordable housing development and availability; review national and local models to identify successful strategies.
- Develop modified policy language– Draft modified code language and help improve policies/procedures that incentivize affordable housing development and preservation, ensuring community needs, perspectives, and equity for historically disinvested communities are centered in all strategies; identify and build relationships with relevant stakeholders to ensure long-term program success.
- Assist with finalizing changes already slotted for implementation - The County anticipates rolling out a series of code/process changes in phases based on priorities established by the Board of County Commissioners.
- Executive Sponsor – Dave Solaro, Assistant County Manager, Washoe County, NV
- Project Supervisor – Kelly Mullin, Planning & Building Division Director, and Trevor Lloyd, Planning Manager, Community Services Department, Washoe County, NV
In addition to the qualifications listed below, a background in affordable housing development, code/policy design in multiple jurisdictions, stakeholder communication, and engagement is strongly preferred for this project.
- Synthesizes complex information into clear and concise recommendations and action-oriented implementation plans.
- Develops and effectively implements both strategic and operational project management plans.
- Generates innovative, data-driven, and result-oriented solutions to complex challenges.
- Responds quickly to changing ideas, responsibilities, expectations, trends, strategies, and other processes.
- Communicates effectively verbally and in writing and excels in active listening and conversing.
- Fosters collaboration across multiple constituencies in order to support more effective decision-making.
- Establishes and maintains strong relationships with diverse stakeholders inside and outside of government, particularly community-based relationships.
- Embraces differing viewpoints and implements strategies to find common ground.
- Demonstrates confidence and professional diplomacy while effectively interacting with individuals at all levels of various organizations.