State Hearing for Rental Inspection Bill (LB 85)
On Tuesday, the Urban Affairs Committee of the Nebraska Unicameral heard citizen testimonies on LB 85, which would require Omaha and Lincoln to develop a Rental Property Registration and Inspection Ordinance to ensure minimum health and safety standards are met in all rental properties. OTOC leaders testified in support of LB 85 along with tenants and other organizations like Restoring Dignity, Together, Family Housing Advisory Services, Omaha Healthy Kids Alliance, and others who submitted written testimony. WOWT, KETV, Omaha World Herald, Lincoln Journal Star and 1011 Now all provided news coverage of the hearing.
We encourage everyone to continue to keep the pressure on legislators and the City of Omaha by taking the survey that was put out by Mayor Stothert.
Based on OTOC’s research on best practices in other cities, including nearby LaVista, Council Bluffs and Carter Lake, OTOC takes the following positions:
Strongly agree on questions 1,2,4,and 5
Strongly disagree on question 3
Using Taxpayer dollars for inspections
OTOC believes the fourth question is somewhat misleading because it suggest we might have to raise more taxes for inspectors. It reads: “Taxes for More Inspectors: I support more taxpayer dollars to be spent to fund a significant increase in the number of inspectors to inspect Omaha rental properties.”
OTOC, working with 9 organizations active in housing in Omaha, has developed a a proposal for a rental property registration and inspection program that is funded by REGISTRATION FEES paid for by the Landlords. These fees would amount to an average of only $2.50 a month per unit to be paid by the landlord, not taxpayers.
Rental Property Code Violations are already costing taxpayers lots
OTOC has found that 75% of current code violations and city funded demolitions since 2015 are in rental properties. The City is already forced to spend significant tax payer dollars to condemn and demolish rental housing that landlords let deteriorate and then abandon. OTOC wants the City to shift to pro-active inspection to reduce the deterioration of rental properties and to maintain the stock of affordable housing in older neighborhoods. Click below to see the proposal that OTOC has provided to the City of Omaha.
To take the Mayor’s survey, Click Here
City recognizes need for change at TIF hearing
OTOC helped organize testimony surrounding Tax Increment Financing for Omaha landlord, Dave Paladino. Paladino Development Groups has thousands of low-income units that rent to a wide range of tenants, including many refugees. In the unprecedented hearing, diverse testimonies from tenants, Omaha Tenants United, concerned citizens, and a variety of agencies shared stories of Paladino’s treatment of tenants and business practices, lack of maintenance and upkeep, and unsafe and unsanitary conditions. TIF cases tend to be automatically approved, but the city council, who listened for over an hour and a half to emotional, moving testimony, voted to postpone to vote for three weeks. They want to look into TIF approval laws, which currently do not allow decisions to be made based on the applicant’s other business practices. Click hear for complete Omaha World Herald coverage of the TIF hearing.
Need for enforcement
OTOC testified neutrally (read Gloria Austerberry’s testimony here), saying that Paladino does have a bad reputation among tenants, but works well with housing agencies that have case workers to hold him accountable. He meets the standards that are enforced, but when there is no enforcement, he gets away with neglecting properties and using a business model that seems to exploit tenants (read Hannah Wyble of Restoring Dignity’s testimony at the hearing for examples), proving again that proactive inspections of units will keep properties up to code when landlords don’t do it themselves.
Several testifiers called for inspections on all of Paladino’s properties if he is to qualify for tax dollars on his new development project, and guarantees that rent will remain at market rate (read testimony by Jack Dunn from Policy Research Innovation and Rosalyn Volkmer).
OTOC continues to call the City of Omaha to adopt a rental registration AND inspection ordinance so that all rental properties are routinely inspected. The testimony at this hearing showed city council and city staff that Yale Park is not the only substandard property in Omaha. Council member Pete Festersen said in his remarks that the City Council Planning Committee, which has been meeting regularly since Yale Park last September is getting ready to release it’s recommendation on what the city can do to address substandard rental housing. It is clear the tides are turning in the city, and that there is growing attention to substandard rentals and city code enforcement. The question is, when the committee’s plan is released, will it prevent another Yale Park?