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OTOC Asks the City Council to Fund More Housing Inspectors in 2020 Budget

July 25th, 2019

OTOC Housing Leaders and Coalition Members Testify at the City Council Budget Hearing

Nine of the 19 speakers at the Omaha City Budget Hearing testified for more inspectors and proper funding for implementation of the new Rental Housing Registration and Inspection Ordinance passed in April of this year.

In the news:

Omaha World Herald: Advocates want more money in city budget for housing inspectors and recycling

Channel 3 KMTV: Public asks for more inspectors and to keep recycling program at budget hearing

Channel 7 KETV: Omaha residents voice concerns with proposed 2020 budget

8/15 follow up with Channel 7 KETV: Omaha mayor and planning department respond to code enforcement criticism

News Channel Nebraska: Housing Watchdogs Demand More Inspectors

The City Council has the opportunity to amend the budget on August 27. Take Action and call your council member today to add more inspectors and ensure the continued implementation of the new rental housing ordinance for the health of homes!

  • Mayor Stothart:

hotline@cityofomaha.org 

402-444-5555

  • Pete Festersen:

Pete.Festersen@cityofomaha.org

402-444-5527

  • Ben Gray:

Ben.Gray@cityofomaha.org  

402-444-5524

  • Chris Jerram

Chris.Jerram@cityofomaha.org

402-444-5525

  • Vinny Palermo

Vinny.Palermo@cityofomaha.org 

402-444-5522

  • Rich Pahls

Rich.Pahls@cityofomaha.org 

402-444-5528

  • Brinker Harding

Brinker.Harding@cityofomaha.org

402-444-5523

  • Aimee Melton

Aimee.Melton@cityofomaha.org

402-444-5526

Mayor’s Budget Does Not Properly Implement New Housing Ordinance

As many know, the Mandatory Housing Registration and Inspections Ordinance was just past this past spring. However, Mayor Stothert’s proposed 2020 budget only provides hiring for one additional housing inspector to implement the landlord registration ordinance.

OTOC’s Housing Coalition is disappointed with Mayor Stothert’s proposed 2020 budget. The City Finance Department estimated that Code Enforcement would need to add 4 housing inspectors, 1 supervisor, 2 support staff, and 1 IT person to implement the rental registration and inspection ordinance in 2020.  Financial costs were estimated at about $600,000.  (A copy of this Finance estimate is below.)

The mayor’s budget abandons tenants living in properties with a history of neglect.  The 2018 and 2019 budgets had allowed for 9 housing inspectors.  The mayor’s ordinance passed and signed in April was a serious step forward.  This proposed budget is a big step backward.

The city’s response to the September 2018 evacuation of Yale Park cannot be the hiring of only one inspector.  In 2019, a 40-plex at 108th and Fort Street also had to be evacuated, due to asbestos.  A series of public hearings and tours of living conditions in another landlord’s properties has shown these problems are systematic.  Omaha cannot expect a change in deplorable rental conditions without money for enforcement.

All seven city council members are on record as voting in favor of rental registration and inspection of problem rental properties in 2020.  All seven members voted at some point for this initial focus on problem properties.  We urge council members to stand up for their ordinance and amend the budget to include the necessary funding.

Three basic ordinances were introduced in March of 2019.  All shared in common two actions:  registration of all rental properties and annual inspections of rental properties with a history of unresolved problems.  In other ways the three ordinances were different:

  • Councilperson Brinker Harding stopped at just registration and annual inspections of problem properties.
  • Mayor Jean Stothert added a three-year cycle of inspections on all rental properties, paid for with $125 inspection fees.
  • Councilpersons Ben Gray and Chris Jerram added a four-year cycle of inspections on all rental properties, paid for by an annual registration fee.

Ultimately the City Council amended the Stothert ordinance to a ten-year cycle of inspections.  Registration and annual inspections of problem properties would start in 2020.  The city-wide cycle of inspections would start later. In other words, for the first year the city essentially will be implementing the ordinance introduced by Councilperson Brinker Harding.  Thus, the cost and personnel projections of the Harding ordinance are the most appropriate way to evaluate the proposed 2020 budget.

All seven city council members, however, voted for a fully-funded ordinance for 2020 because

  • Three council members (Pahls, Harding, and Melton) voted in favor of registration of all rental properties and annual inspection of problem properties only, and
  • The four other council members (Palermo, Jerram, Gray, Festersen) voted in favor of the same, plus a ten-year cycle of inspections of all rental properties.

Therefore, we encourage you to contact your city council-member and voice your concern about the proposed 2020 budget. Ask your councilperson to fund more housing inspectors.

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