Culinary Union Initiates Petition to Cap Rent Increases in North Las Vegas

Posted on: May 19, 2022, 07:59h. 

Last updated on: May 19, 2022, 09:08h.

The Culinary Union has launched a ballot initiative in North Las Vegas to place a cap on further rent increases.

North Las Vegas Culinary Union casino worker
The Las Vegas Strip skyline is seen in the background, with residential homes in North Las Vegas in the foreground. The Culinary Union, which represents Las Vegas casino workers, wants to cap rents in North Las Vegas. (Image: The New York Times)

Culinary, which represents 60,000 gaming industry workers in Las Vegas and Reno, says rents in North Las Vegas surged 25% in 2021. The ongoing spike in monthly costs are pushing many longtime residents out, so claim union officials.

On top of 8.5% inflation in gas and groceries, rising rents are a blow to working families who are still recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Ted Pappageorge, secretary-treasurer for the Culinary Union. “Neighborhood stability is good for everyone: longtime residents, senior citizens, first-time homebuyers, parents with children, and local neighborhood businesses.”

In hopes of implementing a rent increase cap, the Culinary Union has begun an initiative that would prevent further surges exceeding the cost of living, as measured by the Consumer Price Index. Rents would be limited to a maximum increase of 5% a year.

Culinary officials argue that while rent and inflation continue to skyrocket, pay for their union members has been stagnant.

Union Argues Price Gouging

It’s no secret that the housing market in Southern Nevada has been on fire. With an exodus of Californians seeking refugee from high taxes, many are settling in the individual income tax-free Silver State.

Seeing an investment opportunity, private equity and real estate firms have been extremely active in Nevada buying up rental buildings and housing communities. The Culinary Union asserts that many such corporations are wrongly taking advantage of North Las Vegans.

“North Las Vegans are being pushed out of their homes by rent increases that are among the highest in the nation,” Pappageorge declared.

“Corporate interests are raising rents through the roof. It’s is price gouging, clearly,” Pappageorge told The Nevada Independent.

The union’s rent cap ballot campaign is formally known as the “Neighborhood Stability Ordinance.” If approved for the November election, the ballot question would only go before residents in North Las Vegas proper. But Culinary contends that the rent problem extends far outside of the city, throughout Southern Nevada.

The petition has two avenues to reach the November 2022 ballot. The North Las Vegas City Council can vote to ask residents whether they wish to cap rent increases. But the likelier path comes by way of signature gathering. Backers of the “Neighborhood Stability Ordinance” will need to collect signatures from at least 15% of voters who cast a ballot in the most recent city council election, which occurred in 2019.

The 2019 North Las Vegas City Council received 7,805 votes. That means the “Neighborhood Stability Ordinance” would need to collect at least 1,171 signatures to force the ballot question.

A recent poll conducted by OH Predictive Insights commissioned by The Nevada Independent found widespread support for capping rent increases. The survey of Nevada residents found that 65% would endorse the state putting caps on annual rent increases.

Rent Control ‘Failed Policy’

The Nevada State Apartment Association (NSAA) reports that at the end of March, the average rent listing was $1,451 a month in Southern Nevada. That’s 34% higher than the rent average in 2020.

The NSAA, however, opposes caps on rent increases. The association recently cited an op-ed published last month in the Las Vegas Review-Journal from Robert Fellner of the Nevada Policy Research Institute. In his piece, Fellner argues that capping rents through government ordinances is a “failed policy idea that just won’t die.”

“In a 2012 survey of top economists, 95% of respondents said that rent control fails to achieve its ostensible goal of making housing more affordable,” Fellner wrote. “That rent control does more harm than good is one of the most consistent findings in the economics profession. Numerous studies have found that, by reducing the incentive to bring new units onto the market, rent control ultimately leads to higher prices for the public at large.”