The displacement block in downtown Reno between 6th and 7th streets and Center and Lake has turned into a ghost town on this sunny, dry 1st of June. By the end of the month, residents won’t be allowed here anymore, their rents terminated, opening the way for the entire block to be sold to an out of state developer and eventually bulldozed away.
There’s a bra strewn in the middle of the block’s main alley, which will soon be gone to give way for a high rise student compound. A wooden fence has collapsed into a walkway. Overgrown trees benefited from a wet winter and spring but will soon also be chopped down.
There’s new graffiti and wooden planks dotting the old disheveled homes, which for years have served as affordable housing, even if infested by cockroaches, for those who can’t afford anything else, and want to be close to their casino jobs or within walking distance of the main bus terminal and many of the city’s services for Reno’s neediest, ex-convicts, and wayward addicts.
Mike Thornton, from the ACTIONN advocacy group, says he believes many recent residents have already left. He has gone around the block a few times with other volunteers, canvassing, and putting residents in contact with Washoe Legal Services. Thornton says even if they have already moved, the most recent residents here may still be eligible for relocation assistance.
ACTIONN has also started organizing Renoites who live in the many downtown weeklies, many of them low-income residents, seniors, and disabled.
“We’re at the front end of a potential tsunami of redevelopment here in Reno. Let’s be smart. Let’s not do savage gentrification. Let’s be smart and do socially equitable development. Let’s do the smart things because this is our town. We want it to be a place where all of our residents are treated with dignity and respect,” Thornton said.
The anti-gentrification proponent says it’s time to start pressuring Reno’s City Council for long term affordable housing solutions.
“We really are hoping to get the citizens of Reno, and City Council, and developers to understand that you can do socially equitable development and do that in a way that’s forward-looking, so the city can be redeveloped but at the same time that redevelopment includes stable permanent housing, that people can move into.”
Interview and photos for Our Town Reno from June 1, 2016