Our Vision # 2: Invest in Complete Communities

In the last four decades, Clark County has been one of the nation’s fastest growing regions, doubling since 1990 – an increase of more than one million people. The availability of jobs and low housing prices, driven by relatively low construction costs and available land, drew people to the new homes built since 2000.


The rapid and extended population growth over the past 20 years has stretched monetary and natural resources to the limit, making it difficult to keep pace. At the same time, land-use patterns make access to amenities and services difficult without a car, contributing to health issues such as obesity.

While growth is not projected to continue at the rate seen during the last decade, the region still expects to welcome approximately 866,000 additional people by 2030 according to UNLV Center for Business and Economic Research’s Population Forecasts: Long-Term Projections for Clark County, Nevada, 2012. This growth will have impacts on our region’s community character, public health, and environmental quality:

• To accommodate changing demographics, our region needs to foster complete communities that provide equal access to community amenities and housing for people of all incomes.

• A safe, healthy and sustainable environment is crucial to secure, healthy lives and a strong and resilient economy for Southern Nevada residents. Not surprisingly, the most recognizable environmental issues that the region faces are related to under-regulated development during periods of rapid population growth. In addition, the region is located in a valley with one of the world’s most arid climates with very little rainfall; this increases the pressure on local environmental resources.

• Our region must promote inclusive communities and reduce discrimination by advancing integrated strategies to reduce health disparities for all segments of the population. Implementation will occur through committed partnerships with neighborhoods, agencies, businesses and community groups that represent all segments of the population.

The other themes from the Plan address related issues:

• The Transportation Choice theme considers how housing location and type affect transportation impacts and vice versa, and how transportation choices can affect environmental outcomes.

• The Economic Competitiveness theme considers how vibrant and diverse place types that provide proximity to community amenities and open space can attract future workers and retain those we have today.

The Complete Communities theme of the Plan serves as a single unified vision and strategy for how the region can promote inclusive communities with good access to housing, health care, and vital services while fostering the efficient use of scarce natural resources. It calls upon the region to evaluate how it can ensure that its housing profile is well matched to meet the needs of the future population and economy. Attaining a healthy balance of well-planned housing and jobs while ensuring that the region’s natural resources are protected is important for its long-term economic competitiveness.

natural-resources Natural resource preservation is vital in our desert climate.



Translating the regional vision into reality requires an understanding of current trends and the impacts of potential policy decisions. To articulate alternative futures for the region, the project team created two land-use scenarios that describe current and potential land-use patterns. Each scenario shows where people might live and work, the types of housing and jobs that may be available, and how people would travel around the region. Given the many possible ways a community might grow, scenario planning can help better inform the decisions to be made at present, despite the uncertainties of the future.

The Base Case: Growing Disparity and Inequality

As a first step, we created a “Baseline Scenario” or “Base Case” to describe how land use patterns would change if existing trends continued. The base case scenario, in Figure 10, shows where current trends are likely to lead the region, assuming no zoning or policy changes and a continuation of past development patterns. The base case scenario sets the benchmark for comparing an alternative scenario. While the model focuses primarily on the built environment, conclusions can be drawn about impacts to engagement and equity issues. Under the baseline scenario, employment will continue to be focused in current industry clusters and new employment centers will likely grow on the edges of existing development. Likewise, new housing – particularly higher-density housing – will continue to be developed on the outskirts of the region. Transportation investments and infrastructure will continue to be auto-oriented.

Without a significant shift in policy or investment, the future described by the baseline scenario is one in which the current negative trends and growing disparities are likely to continue and worsen.

As development continues at the outer edges of the region, neighborhoods and communities with low levels of income and education will become further isolated and disenfranchised. Without major investments in affordable housing or transit networks, access to critical services and employment opportunities is unlikely to improve. The cost of living is likely to continue to increase without corresponding growth in income and wealth. Neighborhoods with high levels of community risk are likely to remain isolated and segregated from higher-income areas, and the housing market will continue to suffer the after-effects of the recession and foreclosure crisis.

Base Case Preferred Scenario
  • A likely picture of future growth according to existing plans and forecasts.
  • It is the “most likely future condition” if no policy or other changes are made.
  • Preferred future growth patterns according to input received at the September workshop.
  • It is the “most likely future condition” if key policy or other changes are made.

Base Case

The base case scenario does not match task group or stakeholder priorities for the following reasons:

• Most of the growth is at the “fringe” in single use development types. Without major policy or other changes, the baseline scenario indicates Southern Nevada is likely to continue to grow outward along the urban fringes, requiring new development on land that currently is vacant or within open space.

Using 2035 population and employment growth forecasts from UNLV, models show that 67,000 acres of new development would be needed to accommodate projected growth if current trends continue. This is an area roughly the size of the City of Henderson, but less land than was developed in the last decade. This assumes that household size remains stable, housing growth occurs primarily in single family detached housing and very little redevelopment occurs. Incremental growth in employment in this scenario is focused in areas where most employment currently exists – retail, office, industrial and hotel/ hospitality.

• Redevelopment occurs only in downtown, the Strip, and a few mixed-use centers.

• Housing is not located near existing schools and parks.

• Environmental resource use remains relatively high.

• Housing is primarily located on the fringe; the majority of housing units are single family units, representing a mismatch with the future housing needs analysis. If growth continues consistent with recent patterns, new housing would likely be built along the outer edges of the region, particularly for multi-family or higher-density developments.

• Housing growth is likely to be concentrated to the far north and northwest of the metro area and new housing and jobs are not likely to be located close together. Transportation systems would continue to be auto-oriented. Almost 1,500 new miles of roads would be needed to accommodate the new development in the baseline scenario, at a cost of more than $7 billion.

• Most new employment land is on the fringe. Some existing corridor employment areas along the Strip and in downtown Las Vegas would grow, but new employment centers would likely develop at the region’s outskirts. The baseline scenario also revealed that there is currently an excess of commercially zoned properties along employment corridors, as well as a shortage of land for industrial uses.

Figure 12

Figure 12: Base Case Scenario Development Types

Preferred Land Use Vision: Improved Access and Opportunity

Using community input, Southern Nevada Strong developed a map (shown in Figure 2) to show how the regional vision might look on the ground and to visualize how our priorities can be reflected in the region’s development pattern.

The Preferred Land Use Vision develops 55,000 acres, which is 12,000 acres less than the base case. The map shows the community’s vision for where housing, jobs, and transportation would be located in the future.

It is a communication tool with no regulatory function. It provides direction and focus for how we can craft local land-use and transportation programs, and ultimately local zoning code changes. This map is the starting point for community level discussions about how to convert these regional policies into local action.

The vision shows a possible future for Southern Nevada in which:

• New growth occurs in existing neighborhoods and vacant and underused sites are redeveloped.

• Multiple modes of transportation – including walking, biking, and transit – are available, safe and convenient.

• More people can live close to work because jobs, services, and schools are located within easy reach of a variety of housing types for all budgets and preferences.

• Underutilized retail and industrial land along key corridors is repurposed and attracts small businesses and companies in targeted economic industries.

• Redevelopment occurs along future transit corridors, including North 5th Street, Maryland Parkway, Flamingo Road and Boulder Highway.

• The region’s downtowns provide a variety of jobs and services for local residents, dense housing combined with vibrant commercial spaces, and new employment and workforce development opportunities.

• Through regional collaboration, schools are located in walkable and bikeable communities.

During the scenario planning process, the planning team used indicators to communicate the benefits, impacts and tradeoffs of different policy choices and investments. As scenarios are tested and refined, we compare and evaluate them based on their indicator performance. Indicators may be related to new or emerging community goals or issues such as transit access, housing costs, or agricultural land preservation. In practice, this approach allows the public to visualize their region’s future and track progress over time.


Figure 13: Preferred Land Use Vision Development Types

Table 5 shows key indicators for the preferred land use scenario for Southern Nevada Strong.   Table 5: Scenario Indicators
Base Case Challenges In the Preferred Scenario… Changes from the Base Case
Most of the growth is at the “fringe,” in single-use development types
  • Transportation costs decrease($3K less in annual transportation costs per household on average in central vs. fringe areas)
  • New infrastructure costs are less
  • Land consumption decreases(-11K acres)
  • 30% fewer housing units in suburban residential development types
  • 18% fewer jobs in single-use employment types
  •  Average annual household transportation costs are $3,000 less in central vs. fringe areas
Few “mixed-use centers”
  • Jobs/housing proximity improves
  • Transit supporting density increases
  • Pedestrian and bicycle access increases
  • Infill development increases (Increase of ~700 acres)
  • 51% of new housing units in mixed-use areas (Only 24% in base case)
  • 19% of new jobs in mixed-use areas (Only 8% in base case)
  • 16% of new housing within a ¼ mile of high-capacity transit (only 9% in the base case)
Low proximity of housing to existing schools and parks
  • Better use of existing school facilities, potential to expand or build within existing neighborhoods
  • Support existing public amenities
  • 26% more housing units within one mile of existing schools
  • 21% more housing units within a ¼ mile of existing parks
Fiscal efficiency
  • Fewer road miles to build/maintain (Road costs decrease 6%)
  • Tax revenue increases (Higher property values for commercial land, more housing units)
  • $600,000,000 cost savings in roadway infrastructure
  • Overall increase in fiscal efficiency

Environmental resource use

  • Reduced emissions and resource usage
  • 11% decrease in energy use
  • 11% decrease in carbon emissions
  • 21% decrease in water use


As compared with the base case scenario, the results show that the preferred land use scenario results in a built environment that provides more housing choice, better access to community amenities and transit options, and provides a more balanced approach to the siting of employment locations. Auxiliary benefits resulting from this new built form include fewer new roads to be constructed and a decrease in water and energy consumption.


Public Input
CHALLENGES Opportunities and Priorities
Auto-Oriented Development Pattern: The region’s growth patterns have focused on segregating uses and locating new development on the fringe, leading to disinvestment in the urban core, an overreliance on the car, and neighborhoods lacking services and amenities.

According to Smart Growth America’s Dangerous By Design 2014 report, the Las Vegas MSA ranks 8th in pedestrian deaths per 100,000 population at 1.85 from 2008–2012.42

Stabilize and strengthen existing neighborhoods through placemaking improvements by:
  • Increasing neighborhood engagement.
  • Developing housing and employment in mixed-use transit-oriented neighborhoods near job centers, schools, and other services.
  • Initiating redevelopment activities along transit corridors that enhance ridership, promote livability and develop community character.
Housing Choice, Efficiency, and Diversity: If development continues as it has in the past, some housing types and neighborhoods that are available in competitor regions will not be available in the Las Vegas area. We will lose out economically if we cannot compete. Housing costs are unaffordable for half of renters and almost half of homeowners with a mortgage. Poor quality housing has a disproportional impact on residents of low-income areas. Encourage an adequate supply of housing with a range of price, density, ownership, and building types by:
  • Maintaining an adequate supply of land with flexible zoning designations to meet the anticipated housing demand.
  • Developing housing to meet the needs of workers in future industry sectors.
  • Designing housing to meet the needs of residents with low mobility and/or disabilities.
  • Developing low-income and workforce housing in neighborhoods across the region.
  • Considering the needs of the aging population.
  • Educating and informing the population regarding housing choice, needs and rights.
Lack of Access to Basic Services and Amenities: Healthcare shortage: Clark County has a low physician-to-population ratio compared to other counties in Nevada and in the U.S. (1:1,244 while the national benchmark for this ratio is 1:631.) Food deserts: There are 16 food deserts in ClarkCounty. Convenience and fast food outlets are more accessible than grocery stores in several locations throughout the region. Insufficient park access: The region has one of the lowest parks-per-capita ratios in the country. Compared to other Intermountain West metropolitan areas, the region had the highest rate of diabetes, and people reporting fair or poor health. Residents were less likely to exercise than were residents of other Intermountain West communities. Support access to health care, healthy food, parks and community services by:
  • Developing new partnerships to enhance access to healthcare and community services.
  • Researching emerging issues and developing partnerships to improve access to affordable and healthy food options.
  • Prioritizing access to parks, open space, recreational facilities, and opportunities for physical exercise.
Neighborhood Safety And Health: Some neighborhoods experienced decades of disinvestment even before the Great Recession began, but Southern Nevada had disproportionately high foreclosure rates and one of the largest decreases in housing values related to the foreclosure crisis. The Southern Nevada region is characterized by regional inequalities, with community risk heavily concentrated in some neighborhoods. In addition, the region has higher than average rates of crime and substance abuse, which can have negative effects on neighborhoods. Improve neighborhood safety and protect residents from the harmful effects of pollution and hazardous materials by:
  • Developing policies to promote environmental, health of housing.
  • Increasing the safety of neighborhoods, parks and open spaces.
  • Protecting community members from the harmful effects of pollution and hazardous materials, hazardous waste, and environmental contamination.
  • Prioritizing the cleanup and reuse of brownfield and grayfield sites.
Resource Consumptive Development: Much of the region’s development faces a negative perception, including poor building quality and a short life span. The climate demands energy efficiency and enhanced quality of construction suited for the desert environment. Water supply: Diminishing water supply is a threat to regional livability and the economic base. Air quality: Stemming from motor vehicles, construction, and commercial and industrial enterprises, air pollution challenges have grown in proportion to the population and economic growth in the valley. Las Vegas received an “F” for ozone levelsfrom the American Lung Association and was labeled the 16th most ozone-polluted city. Solid waste recovery: Southern Nevada has one of the lowest recycling rates in the country. Promote resource-efficient land-use and development practices by:
  • Promoting sustainability in housing in the region to ensure a durable housing supply that will reduce housing costs for homeowners and renters.
  • Minimizing air pollutant emissions from stationary sources to reduce emissions and improve air quality to meet or exceed national ambient air quality standards and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Supporting compact development and regulations that help the Southern Nevada Water Authority achieve water conservation goals and encourage reduction in water consumption.
  • Increasing water quality and decreasing wastewater and dry weather urban runoff while encouraging recycled water reuse strategies that maximize Southern Nevada’s return-flow credits from the Colorado River system.
  • Reducing regional and local energy demand.
  • Developing guidelines for the preservation of view corridors and restoration of natural resources.
  • Increasing the supply of regionally generated solar energy.
  • Increasing regional solid waste recovery and reducing landfill contributions.

The work documented in this Plan theme was led by the Housing, Environment, and Healthy Communities Task Groups, which brought together a group of subject-matter experts and leaders from throughout the region. The SNS process gathered further input through workshops, open houses, interviews, focus groups and survey discussions. Analysis and public input consistently pointed the Task Groups to the following core challenges and opportunities that the region faces, and that this Plan theme addresses.

Public input was gathered through active participation in the Southern Nevada Strong planning process.
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Auto-Oriented Development Pattern

The region’s auto-oriented growth pattern has led to limited transportation options, long distances between where people work and where they live, and infrastructure that supports suburban residential development styles and is expensive to maintain. This growth pattern has also created a dangerous environment for pedestrians. The region ranks 13th most dangerous overall according to Smart Growth America’s Pedestrian Danger Index. Changing this development style will require new investment in existing neighborhoods and business districts.

Southern Nevada has seen limited infill development on previously, developed land. The large supply of vacant land and abundance of suburban-style housing, retail, and employment development has made infill and redevelopment projects appear unnecessarily risky to financial backers and developers. Despite these challenges, renewed investment will be crucial to realizing the community’s vision. Southern Nevada Strong has identified a series of “centers” that would provide convenient access to shops, restaurants, and community-oriented services, such as day cares, libraries and meeting halls. There are shorter auto trips and more walking and bicycling in a center since residential and commercial areas are near each other. Centers often are the site for transit stations and bus route intersections.

Local governments, the development community, and philanthropic foundations will need to form strategic partnerships to build familiarity and effective processes to enable redevelopment. A strategy for success must include a coordinated approach to making redevelopment desirable and doable, including revisions to the zoning code, identification of appropriate sites and incentives.

In addition to new communities, the preferred scenario envisions a portion of new growth occurring in the form of infill development, which is the integration of new or rehabilitated buildings into existing urban areas. The SNS land-use scenario estimated that 51 percent of new housing units would take the form of infill or redevelopment. Infill can revitalize neighborhoods and main streets by providing new employment or housing and filling “gaps” in a streetscape.

Creating a strong market for infill development in Southern Nevada will require substantial planning, coordination, and skill. The abundance of vacant land and the development community’s comfort and familiarity with suburban-style development is a further disincentive to infill development.

largerpropertiesInfill is usually a new concept. Financial lenders (both in Southern Nevada and around the country) tend to favor the tried-and-true methods of development. Consequently, like every city that has turned to infill as a growth and development strategy, Southern Nevada will have to build confidence and an understanding of good infill practices. Infill projects tend to occur at two scales: the large multi-phase project that can cover several blocks, and small, parcel-by-parcel projects.

• Larger projects make it possible to combine a collection of uses, such as housing and retail entertainment venues, which help diversify the project and reduce risk. Often these projects are initiated by local governments or redevelopment agencies that solicit developers and investors. Substantial public investment is usually needed, especially if the project takes place on a formerly polluted site or in a distressed area. The positive aspects of the larger-scale approach include delivering a collection of amenities under the umbrella of one project. These projects can change perceptions about an area and serve as the initial catalyst for more investment. The drawbacks to this approach are the substantial risk the public must bear, both financially and politically.

• Small, parcel-by-parcel projects add gradually to a community. Investors adaptively reuse existing buildings, add on to them, or build anew. Governments in the region also can play a role, usually through providing financing, development incentives, and technical assistance to individual developers. This can require just as much effort and attention by public agencies as the large infill project approach. Mobilizing small-scale capital projects is not a simple matter, and the risk for individual investors in those projects is not insubstantial. But the long-term yields of focusing on many small projects can potentially outperform the single large project approach.

State and local leaders in communities and schools can support Walk to School and Safe Routes to School programs.

The Role of Local Governments in Infill Development

Most likely, there will be a role for both large and small infill projects in Southern Nevada. But to achieve the vision, there will be a much more substantial need for small-scale investments throughout the region. The region’s municipalities must facilitate those projects with advanced neighborhood planning, clear and predictable zoning regulations, and the right incentives and tools to get them started.Brownfield remediation. Some

Brownfield remediation. Some properties are difficult to sell because of the presence of hazardous substances, pollutants or contaminants. These properties may be designated as brownfields based on federal criteria. Southern Nevada already has a brownfields program that uses federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) funds to mediate environmental damage on designated sites. Owners of properties that fit the criteria should be encouraged to participate in the program, particularly if properties are located on key sites identified by the small area planning process.

Land banking. As demand for infill projects increases, one strategy for encouraging the type of development described in this Plan is to fully utilize the land banking capabilities and authority of the area’s Redevelopment Authorities (RDA). The land bank could establish a revolving fund from sale of properties to acquire and assemble parcels of sufficient size to be economically viable for development.

Fire and safety codes. One of the major hurdles for rehabilitating old structures is fire and safety codes. Cities that have spurred successful infill and redevelopment have brought representatives from fire and police agencies into the planning and permitting process to help identify ways to ensure fire and safety requirements are met in the most cost-effective manner. They are able to provide advice and guidance early in the process, when major decisions about project layout and design can be made without significantly increasing project costs.

Unified development code enforcement. The region can make infill development more attractive by encouraging robust code enforcement that holds property owners accountable for the physical condition and safety of their properties, and provides a means for remediating abandoned properties through code lien foreclosure. This only can be accomplished through persistent inspections, aggressive penalties, and the ability to enforce penalties for violations.

Development expertise. The lessons learned from a holistic approach to infill development include the need for a cadre of experts who understand the challenges of and solutions for infill development. A one-stop-shop for planning, permitting and project assistance is a crucial element of a good infill program. Furthermore, these experts should manage and provide a consolidated toolbox of incentives and assistance programs.

Catalyst projects and early wins. Finally, all of the parties involved in promoting infill, from the government, to citizens, to developers, must keep in mind that it will take time for some financial and community benefits to materialize. Early projects may require some public financial backing, and no one project can fill all the gaps in a main street or center. But as Southern Nevada builds the technical capacity for infill in both the private and public sectors, the process will become easier to replicate throughout the region.

Housing Choice, Efficiency, and Diversity

If development continues as it has in the past, some housing types and neighborhoods will be less available in the Las Vegas area than in competitor regions, limiting housing choice for Southern Nevadans. However, with well-planned and balanced housing, Southern Nevada residents will have homes that they can afford and they will be able to choose from a variety of housing styles, sizes and neighborhoods.

From a longer-term perspective, planning for increased housing diversity and affordability also means ensuring housing availability and affordability that will keep people in the region and help to attract new residents and jobs to the area. Creating housing options that answer the needs of Southern Nevada’s diverse population, while sustaining and supporting existing neighborhoods, will result in a more prosperous, vibrant and inviting region.

Market Distortion

While new construction and sales of homes are still occurring, the housing market in Southern Nevada remains in a state of relative distortion, which unbalances housing supply and demand.43 Some neighborhoods experienced decades of disinvestment even before the Great Recession began, but Southern Nevada had disproportionately high foreclosure rates and one of the largest decreases in housing values related to the foreclosure crisis.

The foreclosure crisis has been the most significant change in recent economic conditions in Clark County, with more than 100,000 foreclosures recorded since 2007.44 The economic recession and widespread job losses make it difficult for residents to remain in and maintain their housing. Then, in 2013, there was a second upward spike in foreclosures, despite several prior years of quarterly decreases.

Low-income households have been particularly hard hit in the slow and unsteady climb out of the recession. At the same time, foreclosure and speculative investment activity have made it difficult for many Southern Nevadans to access the housing market, despite desires to do so. Uncertainty regarding timing for market stabilization continues to affect development and consumer decision-making.

The region has a lower than average rate of owner occupancy. The percentage of residents who own their housing units in the region is lower than the United States. According to the 2010 Census, 55 percent of occupied units are owner-occupied, compared with 65 percent nationally.


Affordable Housing and Equity

The affordable housing challenge faced by Southern Nevadans is different from that in many other regions. As is described later in this section, the region generally has high “by the numbers” affordability. However, the region is characterized by geographic inequalities, meaning community risk is heavily concentrated in some neighborhoods.

As development continues at the outer edges of the region, neighborhoods and communities with low levels of income and education will become further isolated and disenfranchised. Without major investments in affordable housing or transit networks, access to critical services and employment opportunities is unlikely to improve for those communities.

According to HUD, housing that costs 30 percent or less of the household’s income is considered affordable.45 Las Vegas housing is more affordable to the median income family than many other housing markets in western regions.46 While housing is, by the numbers, more affordable in Southern Nevada than in many other regions, there are still many people for whom it is not affordable, and these are the most vulnerable of Las Vegas residents. Overall, housing costs are unaffordable for half of renters and almost half of homeowners with a mortgage.47

More than any other single factor, income shapes a person’s ability to avoid precarious or unsafe housing that includes substandard conditions, overcrowding, and unaffordable utility bills that limit residents’ abilities to control indoor climate. In the future, neighborhoods with precarious housing are likely to remain isolated from higher-income areas, and the most vulnerable residents will continue to suffer the after-effects of the recession and foreclosure crisis.

The capacity of the region’s local governments to address these issues varies. Some local governments are able to deal with precarious housing by themselves; other local governments are not. Often, even capable governments have too few incentives or resources to collaborate with their neighbors. Regions with active, responsive, and appropriate housing policies are more likely to have capacity to develop better mechanisms for forecasting future housing demand, and to meet their housing challenges earlier and more comprehensively. With these tools – capacity, foresight, early action, and comprehensive response – in place, regions are much more likely to reduce the worst impacts of stresses on their most vulnerable residents.

Building vertically is one way to reduce land consumption and provide housing options for all budgets.
Figure 15 shows that the majority of people with incomes under $50,000 spend more than 30 percent of their income on housing costs. Source: American Community Survey, 2008-2012.


The percent of vacant units in Southern Nevada is higher than the United States as a whole. In 2012, 17 percent of housing units were vacant, compared with 13 percent nationally in 2010. The majority of vacant units were condominiums (18 percent), followed by apartments (13 percent), townhouses (12 percent), and single-family units (11 percent).

Figure 16 shows the percent of residents in each income category that are cost burdened, and what percent of the total population they represent. For example, people earning less than $20,000 who are cost burdened represent about 12 percent of the total population of Southern Nevada.
Figure 17 shows where the largest concentration of vacant housing exists.50,51 The substantial number of vacant units is concerning, as vacant units become vandalized or dilapidated, attract crime, contribute to neighborhood decline, and pose a threat to public safety.49 Additionally, the cost burden of inspecting vacant units and mitigating unsafe conditions falls on local governments, which are already overburdened. Data from UNLV identifies nine zip codes in metropolitan Clark County that are at critically high risk for housing-related health hazards.Neighborhood stability remains a pressing concern. Most home buying is taking place in the edges of the Las Vegas Valley, while investors are buying up properties in the core. As more and more homes in the downtown area are owned by absentee landlords, the threat of urban decay is ever present. The key to stopping this is for landlords to make long-term investments in their properties, and for local governments to step up code enforcement to keep these neighborhoods viable.

Future Housing Development

To address the challenges of market distortion, affordability and equity, and disinvestment and to meet the demands of our region’s changing population; our housing market will need to offer different products in more diverse locations. By 2035, as shown in Figure 18 and Figure 19, our population will be:

• Larger. UNLV’s population forecast estimates an additional 835,000 people by 2035.

• More diverse. A majority of the population will be racial and ethnic minorities. Forty-four percent of all residents will be Hispanic, and 20 percent will be of a different (non-Caucasian) race. Over three-quarters of the new population will be Hispanic, due to the fact that much of the region’s current Hispanic population is of childbearing age.

• Older. One in five residents will be over age 65, compared with one in eight in 2012. The region will need to accommodate an additional 330,000 people over the age of 65.

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What does this mean for the future housing market?

According to the Bipartisan Policy Center report, there are a number of key national market dynamics that will affect housing demand in Las Vegas. In the long term, changing demographics, increasing transportation costs, and a changing economy could all drive major changes in housing demand:

• Growth in the 65+ population will create new demands for affordable, accessible housing. As the Baby Boomers age, they will require housing that is close to family and friends and can accommodate any disabilities and changing transportation demands. Specialized housing that caters to specific populations may be more desirable, such as assisted care, active living communities, homes for extended families, etc.

• Seniors will be selling off more units than they can occupy. Among adults entering their sixties, household sizes tend to decrease and few new households are forming, meaning that this generation will be releasing more housing units into the supply than it can absorb.

• Echo Boomers/Millenials (age 17–30 in 2014) have held out longer in buying a home because they have had wage stagnation and high unemployment. They are more likely to rent longer, and may have different housing preferences.53 They also are more racially and ethnically diverse than previous generations. Increasing population diversity could spur demand for less common housing types, including some that have limited availability in Southern Nevada currently, such as co-housing, cooperative housing, intergenerational arrangements, accessory dwelling units, attached single-family homes, etc.

• Rental housing demand is likely to climb in coming years. Given ongoing barriers to homeownership and limited ability for younger people to buy housing, there will be an increase in rental rates.

• Homeownership rates among Black and Hispanic Americans have suffered significant setbacks, but there is still a strong desire among many to own a home. Hispanics saw a strong increase in homeownership during the housing boom but lost all of these gains in the bust; their homeownership rate lags that of white non-Hispanics by 25 percent.54

• Transportation costs will be a key factor when households consider where to locate. Increasing transportation costs and available land within urbanized areas could increase the demand for infill development that is close to existing services. Successful development will require the region to overcome existing barriers to infill development.

To evaluate how future demographics could change demand for housing, ECONorthwest estimated housing demand by 2035 based on expected changes in household size, housing preferences, and ability to own or rent a home.55 Clark County is forecast to have about 344,000 new housing units by 2035. These units will be built more slowly, with nearly 15,000 units permitted per year, compared with the average of nearly 26,000 new dwellings permitted annually between 2000 and 2011.

Importantly, however, the forecasts suggest changing trends: a marked increase in single-family attached and multi-family units. At the same time, with careful planning that accounts for the projected increased transit costs and changing housing preferences, much of this planned new single-family detached development could be directed to compact, walkable neighborhoods on small lots. If local governments develop a strategic focus, these areas could still be more compact and offer the range of housing types that are and will continue to be in demand.

In the short term, single-family homes will continue to dominate new construction activity until available land in master-planned communities is developed and demand decreases for these units. In the longer-term, addressing the patterns of market distortion, inequality, and disinvestment in the region’s housing stock will require increased focus on providing a wider range of housing types for all stages of life, including elderly, young professionals and millennials as well as a range of prices, in both existing and new neighborhoods.

As shown in Figure 21, to meet future demand, new housing built between 2012 and 2035 would need to increasingly emphasize single-family attached and multi-family units.

As shown in Figure 22, nearly 190,000 units of the new housing developed in Southern Nevada would still be single-family; many of these units are already planned and some are under construction in master-planned communities that will be developed.

Source: ACS 2008-2012, ECONorthwest, 2013.

Facts on Aging in Place


• Aging residents want to stay in their current residence and their current community for as long as possible. In a survey conducted by AARP in 2010, three-quarters of respondents reported wanting to stay in their current residence as long as possible and two-thirds of respondents reported wanting to stay in their current community as long as possible (Keenan Ph.D.).

• Some people want to stay in their residence as they age because they cannot afford to move. One-quarter of respondents to the 2010 AARP survey reported needing to stay in their residence because of affordability issues associated with moving (Keenan Ph.D.).

• As people age, they want to be near where they need to go, such as grocery stores, doctor’s offices, and the library. Two-thirds of respondents from the AARP reported being close to the things they need is extremely or very important (Keenan Ph.D.).

• “Between 2005 and 2020, for instance, the U.S. Census Bureau estimates that the population of persons age 50 to 64 will increase by 21 percent and the population age 65 and older by 33 percent. By comparison, the population under age 50 will only increase by four percent” (Kochera, Straight and Guterbock).

• Many people in the United States 50 and older report that their current home will not meet their physical needs as they age. In a survey conducted by AARP in 2004, half of the survey respondents reported that their home either would not or would only “somewhat” meet their physical needs as they grow older (Kochera, Straight and Guterbock).

• People over 50 who do not drive have lower levels of mobility than those who do drive (Kochera, Straight and Guterbock).

• The aging population needs affordable homes with doors wide enough for a walker or wheelchair, easy access in and out of the house (exterior stairs make entry and exit difficult), adequate lighting for safe cooking and other household activities. Aging people also need their home near public transportation and the products and services they need (Ball).

• Zoning makes it difficult for aging residents to stay in their community. Areas designated as single-family exclude older residents when they downsize from their current home because multi-family options are not available. Additionally, some zoning regulations do not allow family members to convert their garage or basement into an apartment for the aging family member (Ball).

• Without access to public transportation, loss of driving privileges end older residents’ independence. Residents who lose their driving privileges as they age depend on different forms of transportation. If their community does not offer public transportation, these residents become dependent on others for their transportation needs (Ball).

• Older adults make up the fastest growing segment of the U.S. population, and as they retire and live longer on fixed incomes, the demand for quality, affordable, accessible housing in close proximity to services, and other amenitie  will only increase (Salomon).

• Retirement patterns have changed dramatically since the mid-1980s (Quinn, C//// ahill and Glandrea).

• The majority of Americans no longer retire all at once. Instead, workers retire gradually, in stages, utilizing bridge jobs between full-time career employment and complete labor force withdrawal (Quinn, Cahill and Glandrea).

• The percentage of population 55 and older continuing to work is projected to increase by 2022. In 2012, 20 percent of the civilian workforce was comprised of workers 55 and older. By 2022, 55 and older workers are projected to account for 26 percent of the civilian workforce or 5.7 million workers (Bureau of Labor Statistics).

Works cited: Ball, M. Scott. “Aging in Place: A Toolkit for Local Governments.” n.d. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Employment Projections: 2012-2022. n.d. http:// www.bls.gov/news.release/ecopro.t01. htm. 2014. Keenan Ph.D., Teresa A,. Home and Community Preferences of the 45+ Population. Washington, D.C.: AARP Research & Strategic Analysis, 2010. Kochera, Andrew, Audrey Straight and Thomas Guterbock. Beyond 50.05 – A Report to the Nation on Livable Communities: Creating Environments for Successful Aging. Washington, D.C.: AARP, 2004. Quinn, Joseph, Kevin Cahill and Michael Glandrea. “Early Retirement: The Dawn of a New Era?” 2011. Salomon, Emily. Fact Sheet: Housing Policy Solutions to Support Aging in Place. Washington, D.C.: AARP Public Policy Institute, 2010.


Lack of Access to Basic Services and Amenities



Clark County estimates that 33,882 persons experience homelessness annually in Clark County. The 2013 Homeless Census counted 7,355 people, about 60 percent of whom were not located in shelters. The majority of homeless individuals in Clark County were white males between the ages of 31 and 60. Fifty-three percent of survey respondents cited job loss as one of the primary reasons for their current episode of homelessness. Homelessness, substance abuse, and health issues often go hand-in-hand. For people who are already struggling to pay their bills, the onset or exacerbation of an addiction or health issue may cause them to lose their housing. Thirty-five percent of all survey respondents reported that they had a disabling condition in 2013. Twelve percent of survey respondents reported alcohol or drug use as the primary cause of their homelessness.


Healthcare Access

Regular healthcare access improves the individual’s chances of living a longer and healthier life.57 Regular health exams can help find problems before they start or find problems early when treatment is often most effective. Clark County has a low physician-to-population ratio compared to other counties in Nevada and compared to the national average (1:1,244, while the national benchmark for this ratio is 1:631.) The consequences of this to the community is delayed care to residents. In addition, it may force some residents to access medical care through the emergency department instead of through a primary care physician who is better equipped to serve the patient long-term.58 Clark County has both Medically Underserved Areas and Medically Underserved Populations and significant sections of the county are formally designated as Health Profession Shortage Areas, shown in Figure 23.


Food Access

When people have access to grocery stores, they are less likely to be overweight, but when they have better access to convenience stores they are more likely to be overweight.59 There are 16 food deserts in Clark County, as shown in Figure 24. The USDA qualifies a food desert as a census tract in which at least 33 percent of the population, or a minimum of 500 people, live more than one mile from a supermarket or large grocery store. Lack of access to healthy food contributes to a poor diet, obesity, and other related chronic diseases such as heart disease and diabetes. Convenience and fast food outlets are more accessible than grocery stores in several locations throughout the region. Of all restaurants in Clark County, 59 percent are classified as fast food by the North American Industrial Classification System. This is much higher than the national benchmark of 25 percent but similar to other counties in the Intermountain West.

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Safe Access to Recreational Opportunities

The Las Vegas Valley has one of the lowest parks-per-capita ratios in the country:

2.6 park acres per 1,000 residents, compared to the nationally recommended ratio of 10 park acres per 1,000 residents. Compared to other Intermountain West metropolitan areas, Clark County had the highest rate of diabetes and of people reporting fair or poor health.

Table 6 shows the prevalence rates of diabetes and obesity for the counties that include Las Vegas, Phoenix, Denver and Salt Lake City. It also includes the national rates of each disease. The prevalence of diabetes in Clark County exceeds that of the other Intermountain West counties shown here and that of the nation. It also has a relatively high rate of obesity.

Table 6: Prevalence of Diabetes and Obesity, 2010

Prevalence of Diabetes Prevalence of Obesity
Clark County, NV 8.5% 21%
Maricopa County, AZ 8.0% 19%
Denver County, CO 5.9% 14%
Salt Lake County, UT 5.3% 21%
Nation 8.3% 35%

Source: CDC, 2010

Those reporting fair or poor health had about seven more annual medical provider visits than those reporting good health and about eight more visits than those reporting very good or excellent health.62 Residents were less likely to exercise than residents of other Intermountain West communities.

  Chapter Four Pt. 2