Housing Coalition continues making waves for substandard rentals

IPL has helped OTOC and several housing agencies and tenants organizations work together to research and promote proactive rental inspections for the health and safety of rental properties and renting families in Omaha. See the work being done as policy is shaped and we work for community voices to be heard in the decision making process

Upcoming Actions

Issue Cafe: Coalition Building:

Tuesday February 19 at 6:45 pm
Urban Abbey, 1026 Jackson St.

Join OTOC leaders and other housing experts to learn how we can reform our broken housing code enforcement system. Learn what solutions are being proposed at the Unicameral (LB85) and at the Omaha City Council. Our elected officials will make decisions over the next month that affect the health of families and vitality of neighborhoods for years to come. Find out more and how you can help shape those decisions

Press Coference: #WeDontSlum launch

Join us for the unveiling of the #WeDontSlum campaign and website. This website and hashtag are a place for tenants and neighbors to share photos of the substandard rental units they live in or nearby and to send the message that substandard rental housing cannot be ignored. Visit the website today :www.wedontslum.com

Op-Ed in Omaha World Herald

IPL trained leader Dennis Walsh and Restoring Dignity Executive Director Hannah Wyble published an op-ed in the paper outlining what an effective housing policy should have to prevent the furthering of substandard rental housing.

Read the article here: Midlands Voices: Omaha needs to provide effective, affordable reform of rental oversight

And in case you missed it, here’s the editorial cartoon from Sunday, Feb. 9 titled “There goes the neighborhood”:

Educating the Public on Inspection Policies

IPL is educating the Omaha community as well as City Council and State Senators about what an effective policy must have while the City of Omaha drafts a City ordinance to head off action by the Unicameral on Sen Wayne’s LB 85 which requires the City to register and periodically inspect all rental property in Omaha.

The Mayor and Council will make decisions over the next two weeks that will affect the health and safety of families and vitality of our neighborhoods for years to come.

Talking points- What we believe must be in place for real rental property reform:

  • Require registration of all rental properties.  The city tracks who owns cats and dogs but does not track who owns rental property.  Omaha should emulate Council Bluffs, which uses stiff fines for non-registration to attain an estimated participation rate of 85 percent.  Registration data must be online, easily accessible and include records of code violations and all names of LLC owners.
  • Inspect all registered properties periodically to identify unsafe and unhealthy conditions.  If the city conducted 13,000 inspections per year, that could cover all rental properties in three years if random sampling was used within multi-unit properties.  Landlords with good track records should be inspected less often than landlords with poor ones.  City staff testified at the public hearing on LB 85 that eight to 15 new inspectors would be needed for inspections on a three-year cycle.  That is effective and manageable.
  • Use modest registration fees to fully fund the system.  An annual registration fee on landlords averaging $2.55 per unit per month would generate $2.1 million per year devoted to proactive code enforcement, at negligible cost to either landlords or tenants.  That is affordable.
  • Make the education of tenants and landlords about their rights and responsibilities an essential function of code enforcement.  Start by requiring each rental property to display a poster in appropriate languages with contact numbers for code enforcement and supportive agencies.  Education plus inspections are needed to ensure health and safety, just as in the food industry.  Health impacts of poor housing can be worse than consuming bad food.  We have rules for inspections of food producers that serve public health quite well.
  • Go back to court to get the changes needed to run proper code enforcement.  City staff says that, because of a 2015 consent decree, sometimes they spend one hour conducting an inspection, but then two hours at the office filling out paperwork.  In contrast, Council Bluffs inspectors spend almost all day in the field, and support personnel complete paperwork.  The consent decree allows the city to seek changes to accommodate “changes in circumstances, or administrative operating efficiencies.”  Now is the time to gain these efficiencies.

Training leaders to Testify at State Hearing for Rental Inspection Bill (LB 85)

On Tuesday January 22, 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. IPL trained 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. WOWTKETVOmaha World HeraldLincoln Journal Star and 1011 Now all provided news coverage of the hearing.  

Leaders after the LB 85 hearing in Lincoln on a cold, snowy day