OTOC’s Housing and Revitalization Action Team worked with OTOC Solidarity member, Habitat for Humanity, to organize a slate of 9 speakers to testify at the City Council Hearing. The 9 speakers, representing faith, community, business and housing leaders, presented short, informative statements which effectively built the case for why Council should vote to create the land bank.
OTOC Housing Action Team Co-chair Gloria Austerberry began the testimony referring to the diverse leaders who would follow her by saying, “OTOC wants the land bank to be a means by which diverse groups can collaborate to speed the transformation of vacant spaces into vibrant places!” According to World Herald reporter, Chris Burbach:
“Omahans paraded to the City Council podium Tuesday to support a municipal land bank, and the council voted unanimously to create one.
The supporters included neighborhood groups, nonprofit housing developers, the Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce, a Mutual of Omaha Bank official, the advocacy group OTOC and a private company that buys tax certificates on foreclosed properties.”
The World Herald writer went on to explain:
“They urged the council to create the Omaha Municipal Land Bank as a way to deal with the chronic problem of vacant, dilapidated houses that have plagued Omaha neighborhoods for years, beyond the reach of private investment and city enforcement.
The land bank will have the authority to buy or accept donations of tax-delinquent, run-down, abandoned houses, vacant lots and other problem properties, then sell them for redevelopment.”
Ten OTOC leaders sat in on the lively 2 1/2 hour debate and all were impressed with the seriousness of the City Council in looking at the issues. Housing team member Susan Kuhlman noted, “This was democracy at its best.” IPL Board member Allison Latenser observed, “by coming to this hearing, I feel like I learned a lot about housing in Omaha and the challenges we face.”
OTOC has worked for the last three years to support creation of an Omaha Land Bank, first by asking the Unicameral to authorize a land bank, and since 2013 to ask City Council and the Mayor to actually create it. Once the the land bank is operating, OTOC believes it could become a tool to address some of the 770 condemned buildings in the City that need to be demolished and the thousands of tax delinquent properties that have been abandoned by their owners.
To read the entire article by the Omaha World Herald, click the link below:
To read follow up article about next steps to assure that Land Bank is successful, click on the link below:
To see OTOC’s 2013 guest column in the World Herald about the Land Bank, click the link below:
To read OTOC’s August, 2013 paper about improving housing in Omaha, click this link:
To learn more about the potential powers of the Omaha Land Bank, click the link below:Description of Land Bank Legislation