by Tabitha Mueller, The Nevada Independent, May 18, 2022
The Culinary Union launched a ballot initiative on Wednesday to cap rent increases in North Las Vegas, following what leaders described as unrelenting price hikes and wage stagnation in Southern Nevada.
The proposal would tie maximum rent increases to North Las Vegas’ Consumer Price Index (CPI) with a stipulation that rent increases could not exceed 5 percent year-over-year. Under the proposal, landlords would not be able to increase the rent for a rental unit during the first year after the tenancy begins, and at any time after the first year without giving a tenant written notice at least 90 days before the rent increase goes into effect.
The initiative is a North Las Vegas-based ordinance effort and therefore will not go before other residents of Southern Nevada if it qualifies for the ballot. It marks at least the seventh initiative from across the U.S. proposing implementing or expanding rent control measures so far this year — and the first organized effort to do so in Nevada since the 1970s.
“Corporate interests are raising rents through the roof. It is price-gouging, clearly, and we are going to do something about it,” said Secretary-Treasurer for Culinary Union Ted Pappageorge during the announcement of the ordinance, noting that the effort is aimed at curbing the power of private equity and hedge funds buying homes in Southern Nevada and across the Sunbelt.
Pappageorge said that the initiative is going to start in North Las Vegas, but the problem extends beyond the community and the effort will move forward from that point. He did not elaborate on other reasons for launching the initiative in North Las Vegas, which is one of the most diverse cities in the state.
The union — one of the most powerful organized labor groups in Southern Nevada — has also set up a bilingual website promoting the effort and organized a political action committee to advocate for the ballot initiative.
The announcement, which took place within the union’s John Wilhelm Big Hall in Las Vegas, arrived on the heels of a nearly 27 percent year-over-year increase in home prices in Southern Nevada, and a more than 34 percent rise in average apartment rent for the same region since 2020.
Though no rent control or rent stabilization laws are in effect in Nevada, an April Nevada Independent/OH Predictive Insights poll indicates that 65 percent of Nevadans from across the political spectrum support enacting rent control policies or limiting the amount a landlord can demand when leasing a home or renewing a lease.
The proposed ordinance would apply to all residential properties except for the following:
- rental units owned by a government agency
- rental units in a residential property which is divided into a maximum of four rental units and where one of such units is occupied by the landlord as their principal residence
- for the first 15 years following the first rental of a rental unit constructed after May 18, 2022
- rental units where the landlord is providing reduced rent to the tenant as part of a federal, state or local program
- rental units owned by a landlord that owns only one rental unit in the city of North Las Vegas
In a press release ahead of the announcement, the union noted that the top 10 apartment owners in Nevada own 26.4 percent of total available units, and the largest owner in the state is the Westland Real Estate Group — a company based in Long Beach, California. Organizers also noted that a Culinary Union member survey revealing 21 percent of respondents had their rent increase by $500 ahead of the announcement.
“Our members are making it clear that, ‘enough is enough,’” Pappageorge said. “And so we’re going to move forward … the truth is, this needs to happen now.”
For the proposal to become a North Las Vegas ordinance, five voters from the city can propose it to the city for consideration. If the city does not approve the ordinance, backers need to collect signatures of 15 percent or more of voters who cast a ballot in the 2019 election (the last preceding city election) to make it on the ballot for the next general election.
“It’s clear whether homeowners or renters, neighborhood stability, safety and security are important to all,” Pappageorge said. “We’re now talking to voters. We’re going to be collecting thousands and thousands of signatures … This ordinance will be on the ballot.”