Omaha city council pushes vote on affordable housing action plan to next week

Affordable Housing
Affordable Housing(WOWT 6 News)
Published: Dec. 6, 2022 at 10:27 PM CST
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - After several hours of public comment, the Omaha City Council did not vote on the long-awaited Housing Affordability Action Plan (HAAP).

Omaha’s planning department has been working with community partners and stakeholders for the last year to develop the HAAP as part of a requirement of a new state law, which tasks the city of Omaha with addressing the affordable housing crisis and reporting efforts on the issue every two years.

In November of this year, voters also overwhelmingly approved a change to Omaha’s city charter requiring the city to address the housing crisis in the metro.

But after hours of public comment from citizens, stakeholders, landlords, and organizations, the vote to approve the HAAP was pushed until next week.

Council members recognized that several other community members intended on bringing their thoughts and opinions forward, but had to leave early due to an earlier agenda item regarding the new streetcar taking more than four hours to complete.

“Women, in particular women with families, are disproportionately impacted by the affordable housing crisis and lack of resources and protections in our community about housing,” said one woman in support of the plan.

“I vehemently oppose this plan, I think could’ve been written in a much more friendly way and taken into consideration things that work and things that don’t work,” said a man who was not in support of the plan.

The plan identifies current gaps in Omaha’s housing, like the fact that by 2030, Omaha will need more than 18,300 affordable units, and in the next 20 years, there will be a need for 80,000.

The plan also shows that it’s estimated that more than 55,000 households in the metro are cost-burdened, meaning they spend more than 30% of their income on housing alone.

After identifying gaps, the plan provides options and strategies to address affordable housing development and provides examples of changing local policies to better support low and middle-income renters and developers.

Those in support of the plan at Tuesday’s council meeting wanted to make sure the city isn’t just passing a plan but is pushing to implement ideas from it.

“I would love to see some deadlines, when will the implementation committee be formed, when will research be completed?” one support said.

“I’m here today to testify in support of the housing affordability plan and ask you all to prioritize implementation of these important proposed actions,” another woman added.

“I just think the implementation of this is going to be the important part, that you have people from all areas, walks of life and communities be able to implement it,” another supporter added.

But those who opposed the plan Tuesday say there are too many unintended consequences, or that it’s incomplete.

“Rent controls have never worked in history ever. case after case after case shows that they make the problem worse, not better,” one man said.

“The plan shows absolutely little interaction with landlords, they talk about the special interests, and they’re all good things, but they’re not talking to the landlord,” another added.

Councilmembers Harding and Melton suggested creating amendments to the plan to help manage expectations of what the city is and isn’t capable of during the next week before it is brought forward at next Tuesday’s meeting.

Several council members also reminded the community that voting to support the plan doesn’t automatically approve everything within it, but rather, it creates a baseline and options for future discussion, implementation, and votes.

“I am encouraged that I think almost everybody here said that this is an important issue and they want to be part of the solution,” Council President Festersen added before moving to the next agenda item.