Omaha Residents Pack City Hall To Voice Opinions On Rental Housing Proposal

Hundreds of Omaha residents packed city hall Tuesday night to voice their opinions on three rental housing proposals and possible landlord registries.

The three proposals are aimed at ensuring rental housing in the city is up to par. Tenants, landlords,activists and lawmakers all showed up to voice their support and concern for increased regulations.

All three proposals that went before the city council included a landlord registry, but the point of contention was whether or not there should be proactive inspections of rental units, which two of the proposals includes. The other proposal was more in line with the city's current complaint-driven system.

Some tenants testified about living with mold, mice, bed bugs and unaddressed maintenance issues.

Tenant and housing advocate Chase Vanderveen spoke to the council saying, "And furthermore, I was visited by my landlord's own pastor - to whom I never gave my address - who told me that if I simply stop going to the city and file the complaints with the landlord, then surely he'll be happy to renew your lease. People are afraid of city code complaints because they fear stuff like this," said to the city council.

State Senator Justin Wayne testified as well and urged the city to pass an ordinance with a landlord registry. He has been putting pressure on the city to get an ordinance in place that includes both the registry and the inspections. Wayne proposed a legislative bill that would force Omaha into that, but it is currently on hold as he waits to see where the city lands.

Those who opposed the proposals said the changes would make the cost of being a landlord too high. "The expenses are huge, and then to add on other fees and then it just adds to the cost, and one thing this does is discourage other people from investing," said one opponent.

All of the discussion on rental housing regulation in Omaha began when all tenants of the Yale Park Apartments were removed from their homes due to poor conditions and hundreds of code violations. At the meeting council members, who are slated to vote on the proposals next week, said any decision will ilkely be delayed in order to make any proposal changes that are needed.

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