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Housing and Revitalization News

City Council voted for Proactive Inspection Policy

April 4th, 2019

 

April 9 City Council Vote-City Council Passes Ordinance for Proactive Rental Inspections but Mayor Stothert Promises VETO

City Council voted 4-3 for a proactive rental inspection system that would start in 2020. They passed “Amendment C” proposed by Gray, Jerram, and Festeresen. This ordinance will require all properties to register, and begin a 10-year cycle of proactive inspections in 2020. Both Council President Ben Gray and Council Member Amy Melton thanked OTOC for your dedicated work on this issue. Thank you all who have shown up, called, shared posts, told your friends, stayed informed, and supported the listening, research, and action of OTOC on this years long journey to improving substandard housing in Omaha! But we’re not done yet…

Mayor Stothert is claiming she will veto the ordinance.

According to the Herald: “Stothert later said she preferred a proposal backed by the council’s three Republicans requiring city inspections of only properties with open or previous housing code violations.”

OWH Article: City passes and Mayor Stothert plans to veto her own ordinance

KETV Stroy: https://www.ketv.com/article/omaha-mayor-jean-stothert-says-she-will-veto-rental-property-registration-plan-approved-by-city-council/27092903

What the Mayor prefers

Mayor Stothert was referring a proposed ordinance  by Council member Harding. That ordinance required inspection only of about 1,100 properties where someone had filed a complaint, the city found a code violation and the owner was unwilling or unable to make repairs after an extended period of time.

Inspecting only these so called “problem properties” repeatedly is not proactive.   The Mayor’s favored approach:

  • Would not have prevented the Yale Park debacle–only 2 complaints had been filed about Yale Park during the previous  3 years because vulnerable tenants do not complain. One of those 2 complaints came because an HVAC system blew up badly burning a child and City staff made the complaint. But those same city inspectors could not look at other units  nearby for the same problems because there were no complaints about other units.
  • Will not identify the the savvy slum lord who repairs or covers up the code violations in one apartment, but can ignore the other 9 units in his building that have the same bad plumbing, leaking windows, pest infestations etc. The City will never inspect those units unless or until each of those other 9 tenants also complain.

It will take 5 votes to override Mayor Stothert’s veto, meaning it is possible that no ordinance will be adopted and Omaha’s renters will largely remain unprotected.

Contact Mayor Stothert and let her know she should not veto this ordinance: Mayor Stothart: hotline@cityofomaha.org or call 402-444-5555

April 2 City Council Meeting

The Omaha City Council opted to delay the scheduled vote on the amendments to the rental inspection ordinances for one week.

OTOC had requested an extension of the vote to give leaders more time to negotiate a potential compromise with the Apartment Association of Greater Omaha, that could be enacted by the City Council.

OTOC leaders are continuing to advocate for the inclusion of proactive inspections along with a mandatory registration in the final ordinance that is adopted.

Leaders continue to hold Yale Park as the litmus test for any proposed ordinance. If the any ordinance or its amendments would make the ordinance incapable of preventing another Yale Park, then leaders deem it insufficient.

Over the one week delay, OTOC leaders will utilize this time to continue to negotiate with the Apartment Association of Greater Omaha with the hopes of producing a meaningful compromise that is acceptable to both landlords and tenants.

Leaders also plan to continue to pressure council members to make sure that proactive inspections and a mandatory registration are included in the final ordinance. Leaders are asking that supporters aid in this push by contacting their council member and urging them to support proactive inspections.

Barring any other delays, the final vote is scheduled for the April 9th City Council meeting.

 

 

Author Richard Rothstein to speak with OTOC and Community Leaders

March 22nd, 2019

Monday March 25 & Tuesday March 26 with

Richard Rothstein

Author of New York Times Bestseller

The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of how Our Government Segregated America 

Events:

Monday March 25–sponsored by Creighton University

7:30 pm  Speaking at Harper Center at Creighton University

602 N. 20th – Free Parking Garage on Cass St.

RSVP at https://excellence.creighton.edu/ColorOfLaw

 

Tues. March 26–hosted by OTOC and Institute for Public Leadership 

Housing Workshop, Family Housing Advisory Services, 2401 Lake St.

1:30 pm:  Meet and Greet with pastors, community organizations, and those interested in housing

2:00  pm: Rothstein and local housing experts present, followed by discussion

Workshop on Intersection of Education and Housing, Learning Community Center, 1612 N. 24th St.

4:00 p.m.  Discussion on how quality education and housing are closely related and what we can do to improve both in Omaha.

Click Here to RSVP for events on Tuesday

Rothstein is a research associate of the Economic Policy Institute and a fellow at the Thurgood Marshall Institute of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. He is also a fellow of the Haas Institute at the University of California–Berkeley where he resides.

In his book, he “describes how federal, state, and local governments systematically imposed residential  segregation… The Color of Law forces us to face the  obligation to remedy our unconstitutional past.” (from  book description)

“Through meticulous research and powerful human  stories, Rothstein reveals a history of racism hiding in  plain sight and compels us to confront the consequences of the intentional, decades-long governmental policies that created a segregated America.”   —Sherrilyn A. Ifill, president of NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund

OTOC Testifies Before City Council in Favor of Proactive Inspections

March 13th, 2019

On Tuesday, OTOC leaders joined tenants, nonprofits and landlords to testify in support of proactive inspections in Omaha. In front of a packed house at City Hall, OTOC leaders Karen McElroy, Rosie Volkmer, Gloria Austerberry, Dennis Walsh, Susan Kuhlman and Paul Romero laid out a comprehensive narrative that covered the background information of the problem of substandard property in the city, the failure of the current complaint-based system and the extensive research in support of rental inspection programs.

OTOC’s testimony was supplemented by the lived experiences of tenants and case workers from local nonprofits, that displayed to members of the City Council the horrendous conditions that tenants have been forced to live under. This powerful combination of experience and data shed light on the problem as well as the effectiveness of a proactive solution. OTOC organized this coalition with community partners like Together, Habitat for Humanity, Family Housing Advisory Services, Restoring Dignity, Neighborhood Alliances and associations, landlords, tenants, and community advocates.

 

After nearly four hours of testimony on Tuesday, the City Council is likely to delay the vote on the proposed ordinances that was set for next week, to give the council more time to alter the ordinances as necessary. Thank you to everyone who testified and the many who came to the meeting to show your support for OTOC and Omaha’s renting families.

OTOC leaders urge supporters to continue to pressure their City Council members to support a system of landlord registration with proactive inspections so that we can ensure that all people have access to healthy homes in our city.

News coverage can be found on the Omaha World Herald, KMTV, KPTM, KETV and WOWT.

Read More . . .

Rental Housing momentum on state and local levels

January 9th, 2019

City Council Ordinances

On March 12 at 2 pm at 1718 Farnam St, the City Council will have a hearing for three different ordinances pertaining to changes in how the city handles housing and code enforcement. If you are interested in testifying, please call us at 402-344-4401 or email at otocfornebraska@gmail.com for more information.

Summary of Ordinances

OWH Article about the Ordinances: Three proposals to regulate rentals head to the Omaha City Council. Here’s what each would do

OWH Article: Housing advocates push for more inspections of Omaha rental properties; landlords push back

Resources from OTOC

Read More . . .

OTOC meets with 9 area senators in anticipation of 2019 Unicameral session

December 19th, 2018

OTOC leaders are meeting with Omaha-area Unicameral senators. In October, we hosted a Candidate Accountability Session for candidates from districts 6, 8, 12, and 20. (Click here to learn more). Those candidates committed to meeting with OTOC leaders to follow up on their commitment to action.

Leaders are now following up with the victors from those districts, plus other area senators about priorities in the upcoming session.

Senators meeting with OTOC:

Read More . . .

OTOC Interviews with WOWT and KFAB

December 1st, 2018

OTOC Interview with WOWT 

OTOC leader Dennis Walsh sat down with Tara Campbell of WOWT on November 26th to talk about the need for a rental property registration and inspection ordinance to help solve the city’s ongoing issue with substandard rental properties. Dennis responded to concerns that OTOC has heard from council members that an inspection program would be too expensive and articulated the ways OTOC believes the city can move forward on the issue. Listen to the interview here. 

OTOC Leader’s Interview with KFAB 

On November 28th, OTOC Leader Dennis Walsh sat down with KFAB host Chris Baker to defend OTOC’s call for a landlord registration and inspection program. Listen to Dennis’ masterful and humorous responses during this radio interview. Look for this November 28th interview using this link

Urban Abbey Housing Issue Cafe 

On Tuesday, November 27th, the OTOC Housing Team spoke to over 75 guests at Urban Abbey about the variety of solutions being proposed by the city to combat the issue of substandard rental property. We want to thank all who came out and invite you to attend our next Housing Team meeting which will be Tuesday, 1/4 at 6:30pm at Augustana Lutheran Church. 

Housing Research 

The OTOC Housing Team has compiled resources that allow people to understand the issue if substandard rental property in Omaha as well as solutions to this issue. Attached is the Housing Team’s analysis of the number of inspectors necessary to implement a rental property inspection ordinance. Also attached is a graphic which explains the possible solutions to substandard rental property in Omaha that OTOC leaders have heard about in their meetings with members of the Omaha City Council.  

Issue cafes educate about refugees, mental health, and housing

November 16th, 2018

Improving Rental Housing in Omaha

Seventy-five diverse community leaders met on Nov. 27 to learn about and discuss the state of affordable, quality housing. OTOC leaders presented some solutions like a rental property and landlord registration, a housing ombudsman, an inspection pilot project, and , the most effective, a rental property inspection ordinance. The lively group had a good conversation about what these policies would look like and about the larger scope of affordable housing in Omaha. See this article to learn more about OTOCs recent work on housing and an inspection ordinance.

Read More . . .

225 OTOC leaders meet with Unicameral Candidates from 4 Districts

October 23rd, 2018

Over 225 OTOC and community leaders from 25 congregations and community organizations met with 7 candidates for the Nebraska Unicameral on Monday, October 22.  OTOC leaders told compelling stories about five issues which they are working on through OTOC Action Teams. They asked candidates for specific commitments on:

  • Adopting a state law requiring rental property registration & inspection if the City of Omaha is unable to adopt adequate protections;
  • Fully funding the  state portion of expanded Medicaid when  Initiative 427 passes;
  • Improving mental health care in our state prisons and in the community;
  • Adopt state strategies to battle climate change;
  • Continue reforming Payday lending. 

Scorecard of candidate responses

Click for a copy of the questions OTOC leaders asked: Final Questions for October 22 Session with Unicameral candidates

Twenty different OTOC and community leaders told stories, asked questions or served as chairs OTOC Agenda with speakers for Oct 22 2018

Read More . . .

Take Action for Renters: Don’t let Yale Park Happen Again

September 26th, 2018

Please join OTOC leaders in contacting your council member and the Mayor’s office and ask for a prompt solution that would prevent homes from becoming unsafe and uninhabitable. Use the paragraph below or your own words to send your support for a solution to the code enforcement system.

We believe the situation at Yale Park was a tragedy that should not be repeated, and a rental property registration and inspection would prevent rental properties from reaching such substandard conditions. We are asking City Council change our “complaint driven” system to one that proactively prevents homes from falling into disrepair.

See OTOC’s Research on Proactive Rental Property Registration and Inspection ordinances:

OTOC Position Paper on Proactive Rental Inspection Systems

Guide to Rental Inspection Programs (1)   

OTOC 1 Page Overview of Rentral Property Registration Ordinance.docx

Dennis Walsh Housing Article 8-9-18

Last two speakers of OTOC 2018 Budget Testimony

Tell City Council Members OTOC wants:

Read More . . .

OTOC leaders Ask City Council to Invest in Improving Housing in Older Neighborhoods

August 3rd, 2018

 

On Tuesday, July 31st, twenty OTOC Leaders attended the City Council Budget Hearing. Six leaders testified before the Council, emphasizing 6 priorities surrounding the issue of housing and revitalization of Omaha neighborhoods. Below is a list of these priorities.  

OTOC Slides and Testimony from Budget Hearing

1) Puts $1.1 million in the budget for demolition of dangerous structures, putting the six year total at $6.2 Million invested in demolition of 

2) Finalize an Inter Local Agreement with the Omaha Land Bank by the end of August so that it can give the City $500,000 to provide for demolition of 30 additional homes in 2018-19.

3)  Foreclose on all Demolition Liens as quickly as the law allows so that the abandoned properties end up in the hands of the Land Bank, who has a proven record of better maintaining properties.

4) Clarify when the City Garbage Collector can refuse to pick up trash for weeks as they did at 4201 Maple.

5) Ensure that all 9 of the Housing Code Inspectors in the proposed budget get hired. The Planning Department has a history of putting more code inspector positions in the budget than it actually hires.

6) End the Demolitions Pipeline and work with OTOC to learn about adopting a Proactive Rental Property Registration and Inspection Ordinance which would require that all rental property be registered and periodically inspected to assure that it meets basic health and safe codes. Council Bluffs, LaVista and Carter Lake have already taken this step.

 From WOWT Broadcast

“Churches who work with Omaha Together One Community stood up to present to the council the need for getting rid of the demolition pipeline. What OTOC wants is for the city to be able to absorb demolished property through an interlocal agreement with the Omaha Municipal Land Bank to reuse the land.

OTOC also wants the city to better use what money they have in the budget to hire more code inspectors.

“What we’re interested in is that they actually hire fully the inspectors that exist in the budget. The money is there if they would simply hire people rather than leaving the money on the table and saying, ‘We have a surplus in our department,’” Dennis Walsh said, who spoke on behalf of OTOC.”

 Since the hearing on Tuesday, the testimonies of OTOC Leaders have been cited in articles from the Omaha World Herald, KETV and WOWT

From here, OTOC Leaders hope that these testimonies will result in a more proactive approach  from the City Council in addressing the issue of deteriorating and aging property in Omaha.

On Tuesday, leaders took the first positive step in that direction. 

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