April 24, 2023

The Nevada Independent Highlights Cortez Masto’s Successful Push to Build More Affordable Housing

In Case You Missed It, the Nevada Independent highlighted Senator Catherine Cortez Masto’s (D-Nev.) successful push to secure affordable housing funding from the Federal Home Loan Bank of San Francisco (FHLB-SF) for Nevada. Cortez Masto has led national efforts to ensure the FHLB System is directing adequate funding toward affordable housing and community development, and her work is beginning to pay off both locally and across the country.

Thanks to Senator Cortez Masto, Nevada will benefit from the first targeted fund and the entire FHLBank System has agreed to increase their voluntary affordable housing and community economic development contributions by 50 percent, a significant change that will make a difference for communities across the country.

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The Nevada Independent: Cortez Masto-led push yields $4.5 million in new affordable housing funds for Nevada

By Gabby Birenbaum, 04/24/2023

When Ovation Development hosted a groundbreaking on April 6 for a new affordable housing development for seniors in Clark County, Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV) was on site to celebrate.

Since she’s arrived in the U.S. Senate, she’s been worried about housing. The new development is urgently needed in a county that estimates it is 85,000 units short of demand for affordable housing.

From Cortez Masto’s perch on the Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee, she has sat through hearing after hearing examining the lack of affordable housing supply across the nation, from challenges finding financing to the cost of development. She also has spoken to stakeholders across the state, who have described devastating shortages.

The new project, expected to provide 195 units upon completion in 2025, was emblematic of the level of investment affordable housing developments need. Ovation used funding from the 2021 American Rescue Plan, Clark County and private sources including the Federal Home Loan Bank of San Francisco. 

As Cortez Masto spent her first term investigating the housing crisis, she discovered an alarming fact about the Federal Home Loan Bank of San Francisco, whose mandate includes funding affordable housing projects in California, Nevada and Arizona.

In 2021, she said, California received $37 million in FHLBank grant funding for affordable housing projects. Nevada received no grants. In 2022, the state got $1.9 million.

Nevada was getting nothing!” Cortez Masto said in an interview, exasperation evident for the typically measured senator. “So I started reaching out to them and inquiring what was going on. I started talking to their president, [even] showed up at one of their board meetings on the phone, and said I need to know what's going on here.”

Her pressure campaign worked. After she introduced legislation targeting the FHLBank system and continually working with bank leadership, the FHLBank of San Francisco announced in 2022 that it would create a Nevada Targeted Fund, setting aside a pool of grants open only to Nevada applicants, and give $500,000 to the Nevada Housing Coalition to boost affordable housing development capacity in the state. The application opened in January, and the bank announced it would grant $4.5 million to a pool of eight Nevada applicants for a geographically diverse set of projects.

The Nevada Targeted Fund is the first ever state-specific fund in the FHLBank system, potentially setting a precedent for smaller states such as Nevada that experts nonetheless agree faces one of the harshest affordable housing crises in the country.

“Our housing deficit is so severe that we need to start moving the needle,” said Christine Hess, the executive director of the Nevada Housing Coalition. “These funds are tremendously important. And combined with the capacity building that the bank has invested in [the state], the future in Nevada really is brighter.”

A first-of-its-kind fund

The FHLBank of San Francisco is one of 11 regional collectives that make up the FHLBank system. Its members are banks, credit unions, insurance companies and other financial institutions that meet a certain threshold for mortgage-related assets. The members pledge collateral to their regional FHLBank, which in turn receives funding from the bank that they can lend to their core base.

As a whole, the system is regulated by the Federal Housing Finance Agency, which ensures that each regional bank follows its mandate from a 1989 law requiring 10 percent of earnings be kept within the FHLBank system to be pledged to affordable housing. The FHLBank of San Francisco typically dedicates between 11 percent and 14 percent to affordable housing through its Affordable Housing Program (AHP), according to senior vice president of public affairs Jeremy Empol.

Hess said this funding is often the “last money in” and gets an affordable housing project, for which developers usually cobble together six to nine different funding sources from public and private investments, over the finish line. 

Empol said Cortez Masto began connecting with the bank’s president in 2021, bringing her attention to the funding deficit in Nevada. In May 2021, she introduced legislation to double the amount of funding for affordable housing that FHLBanks are responsible for and expand its grant offerings; in July, she and Sen. Jacky Rosen (D-NV) sent a letter to the bank president expressing “dismay” at the bank’s neglect toward Nevada and requesting the creation of a targeted fund.

[I] put together my legislation and said if you're not going to work with me, then I'm going to actually push through this legislation and force you to really take a look at this,” Cortez Masto said. “That's how it really started.”


Bank officials and Hess said the fact that the targeted fund received eight applications is a significant improvement, and pointed to the investment in the Nevada Housing Coalition as part of the long-term goal of spurring growth of the state’s affordable housing development community. Hess said her organization has already used those funds to train 300 participants in affordable housing development, and subgranted out $200,000 to two projects, putting them close enough to their funding goals to apply to the AHP.

Cortez Masto’s interest in the subject also has helped drive awareness.

“We do have to give credit to the senator … to get everyone to this point where the application numbers can increase so we know that those funds are going to be fully utilized,” Cicourel said, citing her office’s relationships with tribal nations in particular. “She was a big partner with us in getting the word out.”


The Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee has held several hearings on the topic. Cortez Masto has trained her sights on the beleaguered Federal Housing Finance Agency, sending its director a letter asking for a stringent review of the FHLBanks system and its commitment to affordable housing.


But in the meantime, bank officials and advocates expect the Nevada Targeted Fund to have a real impact, both in terms of financing projects and injecting confidence into the affordable housing market in Nevada.

“The Federal Home Loan Bank money is not going to pull us out of the crisis,” Hess said. “But it is absolutely a resource that we want to make sure comes also to Nevada.”

And, as Cortez Masto continues to use her committee perch to find solutions, she said she expects the Nevada Targeted Fund and the FHLBank money for capacity building to be an effective tool toward bringing more projects like the Ovation Development senior housing over the financing finish line and open to residents.

I want to see more of that,” Cortez Masto said. “I want to see more of that funding coming into our state and being utilized for affordable housing.”