LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — Republican Gov. Joe Lombardo criticized the federal government’s “broken and backlogged bureaucracy” Tuesday as President Joe Biden prepared to unveil a massive $258 billion budget request to address the nation’s affordable housing crisis.

In a letter to Biden released to the media Tuesday morning, Lombardo said Biden should be addressing a major reason more housing isn’t being built in Nevada: federal land that restricts growth. In Las Vegas, growth spurts follow Bureau of Land Management (BLM) auctions that open federal land to developers. The process isn’t moving fast enough, Lombardo said in the letter. “Mr. President, we can — and we must — do better for the people of Nevada,” he said.

“The federal government continues to arbitrarily restrict statewide growth, inhibiting our communities from realizing their vision for the future,” Lombardo said. “I urge you to cut the bureaucratic red tape that prevents Nevada communities from achieving their housing and economic development goals.”

Lombardo took a shot at the Biden administration’s focus on setting aside public land to protect it from future development, including the Avi Kwa Ame National Monument south of Las Vegas.

“Additionally, your administration recently created a 500,000-acre national monument in Southern Nevada. If your administration met Nevada’s housing crisis with the same level of resolve, our communities would have room to grow and would be more equipped to meet pressing housing needs,” Lombardo said.

Biden arrives in Las Vegas Tuesday afternoon. Lombardo’s comments on the Democratic president’s agenda weren’t exactly a red carpet for Biden’s visit.

“Nevada can no longer afford the federal government’s broken and backlogged bureaucracy,” Lombardo said. “We need the federal government to be a partner in addressing the housing crisis and act immediately to reduce the barriers and bureaucracy that stand between Nevada families and affordable homes. I hope you will join me to work on these important issues.”

Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Whatley also took a shot at Biden, calling his Nevada stop part of “Joe Biden’s Bankrupting America Tour.”

Senior Biden administration officials identified Nevada’s use of American Rescue Plan dollars — the money was mostly spent on affordable housing projects — as a prime reason Biden is announcing his plan in Las Vegas. But Lombardo had specifics of his own on sky-high home prices that shut out most first-time homebuyers. The median home price in Southern Nevada is $445,000. In Northern Nevada, it’s $550,000.

Lombardo decried a process that requires “acts of Congress” to start the process to sell federal land.

More than 80% of Nevada is controlled by the federal government, with the majority — about 63% under BLM control. The Department of Energy and the Department of Defense also control large areas.

Meanwhile, progressive leaders and tenant advocates criticized Lombardo’s decision to bring on Ryan Cherry as chief of staff. The Nevada Housing Justice Alliance assailed Cherry as “a former paid lobbyist for an apartment management company.”

The alliance includes Battle Born Progress, Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada, Make the Road Nevada and For Our Future of Nevada.

Leo Murrieta, director of Make the Road Nevada, said Cherry’s appointment goes against Nevadans’ urgent housing needs. “Following the Governor’s veto of critical housing protections, this decision further alienates vulnerable populations, including families, seniors, and individuals with disabilities who are already struggling in an increasingly unaffordable housing market,” he said.

“At Make the Road Nevada, we see the daily struggles of those fighting for stable and affordable housing. The Governor’s choice signals a disheartening prioritization of industry interests over the well-being of Nevada’s communities. We urge Governor Lombardo to realign his administration’s housing policies with the needs of all Nevadans, ensuring access to safe and dignified housing is a right, not a privilege. The time for action is now,” Murrieta said.

But Cherry’s defenders said the criticism is misdirected. His former business partner, Scott Bensing of SB Strategic Consulting, said Monday night that Cherry didn’t do any work with the apartment management company. “Ryan was not involved with that client in any capacity,” Bensing said.


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