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OTOC Housing leaders testify for nearly $1 Million in demolition funds and a new housing inspector

July 28th, 2015

Susan Kuhlman at podiumOTOC leaders attended the City Council’s annual budget hearing at on August 11 at  the City Council chambers.

Four OTOC speakers supported:

  • $957,000 in city and federal funding for demolition of dangerous buildings—the 3rd year in a row since OTOC first won this increase for 2014.
  • add a housing code inspector position and assure that all housing code inspectors have the training they need to be certified inspectors under the Uniform Housing Maintenance Code;
  • City Council create a Vacant Property Registry to require to register vacant houses as a means to encourage owners to do something with their vacant property before it slowly deteriorates and has to be demolished.

From KVNO News

…The Council recessed for several hours, meeting again at 7pm to hear from the public concerning the Mayor’s proposed 2016 budget.

“Vicki Pratt (of Omaha Together One Community) spoke in favor of demolishing more condemned buildings. She told Council members it’s about more than clearing eyesores.

“It’s also a safety issue in the neighborhood. A lot of the times those houses turn into crack houses. Kids get in there and there’s holes in the walls, there’s holes in the floor and it’s a very dangerous situation and it definitely impacts the property values of that neighborhood,” Pratt said.

From August 13, 2015 Omaha World Herald

Representatives from several other groups also addressed various aspects of the budget:…

…» Members of Omaha Together One Community said they’d like the city to continue its efforts toward demolishing vacant properties.

Background from July 27 Article

Mayor Stothert’s 2016 proposed budget reflected two of the priorities that the OTOC Housing Revitalization Action Team has raised consistently over the last three years. The Mayor’s budget proposes nearly $1 Million in funding for demolition of dangerous buildings for the third year in a row.  OTOC leaders argued for this increased funding to clear a backlog of blighted buildings at a May 6, 2013 Candidate Accountability Session attended by 350 OTOC leaders and candidates for 5 of the 7 City Council positions. Seeing the enthusiasm of the OTOC delegates for this issue, all five of the winning council members told newly elected Mayor Stothert they wanted to increase the funding for demolition to $1 Million, and for the 3rd consecutive year, demolition funding will be $957,000 or 96% of what OTOC asked.

Housing Action Team

Members of OTOC Housing Action Team meet to discuss how to improve housing in Omaha

As a result, more dangerous buildings are being demolished. In 2013, the City of Omaha was only able to demolish 34 buildings and Habitat for Humanity (using City funds) demolished another 19. With the increase advocated by OTOC, in 2014 the City was able to demolish 93 dangerous buildings and Habitat demolished another 16 buildings.

This year’s budget also restores one housing inspector position which was lost when the City of Omaha settled a lawsuit in 2014 brought by the Metro Omaha Property Owners Association (MOPOA). Under the terms of that settlement a veteran housing inspector was taken off the streets and assigned different duties, leaving the housing inspector corps at least one member short. OTOC raised this issue at the City Council public hearing in April, 2015 regarding boarding house inspections. Under questioning from Council members, Deputy Planning Director Jay Davis acknowledged to City Council that his department was short on inspectors for both housing code enforcement as well as for new construction. Members of the OTOC Housing Action Team have met twice with Mr. Davis in recent months to confirm his support for maintaining funding for demolition, restoring the housing inspector position and making other changes to the City Code that OTOC advocated in an issue paper published in 2013.

OTOC to again advocate for Vacant Property Registry

At the August 11 hearing, OTOC leaders will encourage Council members to look into other strategies proposed by OTOC in 2013 to reduce the number of homes that are allowed to slowly decay to the point where they need to be demolished. One OTOC suggestion was adopted by City Council in 2014, the Omaha Municipal Land Bank which can be a useful tool for clearing tax debt and title issues on tax delinquent property that has been abandoned by the owners. Another strategy advocated by OTOC since 2013 is the development a Vacant Property Registry which helps track property owners, encourages a minimum level of property maintenance and recovers some portion of the costs incurred by the municipality to deal with vacant properties. Other strategies include aggressively pursuing civil judgments against those property owners who routinely abandon properties that they can no longer rent and expect the City to demolish at taxpayer’s expense.

 

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