The Howells Come To Reno

A friend, who recently visited me, overheard an interesting conversation in the elevator. An agent was showing an elderly couple a penthouse condo (you too can be the proud owner of 600 sq ft for $499,000!) and the conversation settled around whether Reno was the new place for rich folks like them looking for a third home. Apparently, they already have homes in Jackson Hole and Sacramento (I wonder if I’ve seen them in Aspen?) and are thinking about purchasing a condo in Reno. Of course, when they cut to the chase, what really made Reno attractive to this set of Howells as a location for their third home was the tax benefits of buying a home here and claiming it as their primary residence. Ah, Nevada, the historic home of the quickie divorce and the tax averse.

As my friend and I discussed this, we couldn’t decide whether a couple like this is a good or bad thing fore Reno development. It was clear they didnt intend to live in Reno, but by buying a home here they are investing in its future at least economically. What happens if we get more Howells and less young singles and families moving downtown? Two week residents aren’t going to make the same kind of contribution to the downtown community that full-time residents would. What are they contributing to the community besides money? Ideally, Reno needs people moving into downtown condos that live there if its to become a truly urban city with a thriving cultural and retail sector outside of the casinos. And clearly, Thurstons won’t be as engaged civically in the city as full-time residents but they’ll be able to vote if they claim it as their primary residence.

It ocurred to me that I might be being ageist, but I don’t think so. I call them Howells because they have lots of money–not because they’re old. What do you think? Should the minx be worried? Will downtown Reno become a city full of half-full condo buildings owned by the Howells of the world looking for the new trendy place for a third home

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People like that should get a motorhome and drive it around the country, and live in various wal-marts. I hate wasted space, especially downtown. They should be taxed like never before. We need a special “jerk tax”.

A jerk tax! Start a referendum!

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