Omaha weighs in on closing the affordable housing gap

As Omaha's population grows, addressing a housing shortage in the metro becomes even more important.
Published: May. 3, 2022 at 11:15 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - Some might call it growing pains for a city adding jobs in tech, medicine, and finance, but without enough quality homes for those moving here and those already calling Omaha home.

So in November, Omaha’s City Council called for a housing affordability action plan to be developed. This week, the early stages of creating such a plan began.

“You read the news, and you realize we’re 10,000 homes behind,” said lifelong Omaha resident and businessman Damon Wells. “That’s a staggering number. So that’s the Rubik’s cube. I don’t know what’s gonna happen, and I personally don’t know what the solution is.”

Wells praised the open house efforts while expressing a desire for the city to take action once the plan is in place.

“The city of Omaha is gonna have to get out of its (own) way,” Wells said. “Some of the bureaucracies that have existed in building homes and offering affordable housing are gonna have to definitely change, which means some policies may have to change because you’re gonna definitely have to be creative to deal with this dilemma that we’re in.”

Wells, along with dozens of others, stopped off at the open house being held at The Venue in Omaha. The purpose: to get real input from real people to address the diverse needs of the city in terms of housing.

”It’s a puzzle, which we’re all trying to put together, and care so much (about),” said Amy Haase, urban planner for RDG Planning and Design, the company contracted by the city to develop the action plan. “I think that’s one of the exciting parts about this process is hearing the passion and the care that people have about making this is a great place to live and that everybody has safe secure affordable housing.”

Quality, affordable living in Omaha means different things to different people. The old American dream of home ownership just doesn’t work for everybody.

”You do think of the traditional dream to be, you have a single-family home with a yard and a fence,” said North Omaha resident Jewel Rodgers. “And maybe that looks like a condo now, or a more dense town home development. It looks different but I do think it’s accessible with the right support and the right knowledge.”

Each district hosts an open house.

District 3 hosted an event Monday night, followed by Tuesday’s open house in District 2. District 1 hosts an open house Wednesday night at Benson High School, District 4 on Thursday at Livestock Exchange Building, with the remaining three districts next week.

A draft is expected to be ready for public review by the fall, with the housing affordability action plan ready to be considered by the city council by the end of 2022.

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