Call for change casts a net beyond Yale Park

OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) -- A week out from the shutdown of the Yale Park Apartments for extensive code violations, the calls for change and the plans to implement them continue to gain momentum.

Omaha Together One Community has slated a news conference for 3:30 Wednesday afternoon. The organization says it's teaming-up with groups that frequently visit substandard rental properties to call on city officials for action. They say they want to see changes in how the city assures that a rental property is safe and habitable.

OTOC's Dennis Walsh is quoted in a news release as saying, “Yale Park Apartments is not a ‘one of kind problem’ in Omaha. It is a symptom of a housing code enforcement system that is broken.”

Approximately 500 residents of Yale Park were moved out of their homes and into temporary housing last Thursday as city inspectors acted on complaints and uncovered more than 1,000 code violations. Relocation efforts have been in progress since that time. The property owner is being presented with the list of violations to remedy.

OTOC's news release states that it will be calling on the city to take the following steps:

  1. Hire all of the housing code inspectors that are in the annual city budget—in eight of the last 10 years, the city has failed to actually hire all of the code inspectors budgeted.
  2. Develop a system requiring that all rental properties are registered so the City of Omaha
    knows which properties are rental units
  3. Inspect all rental properties periodically to assure they are safe and habitable for the
    tenants.

City Planning Director Dave Fanslau and Chief Housing Inspector Scott Lane will be holding a news conference at 4:30 to address the city's ongoing actions.

The city is limited in the manner in which it can pursue action regarding reports of property problems.

City officials cite the following court restriction linked to earlier litigation:

"The City is required by a federal court order to include the name and contact information (phone number) of the person making a report of a housing code violation. Without this information, we cannot submit the report. In 2003, MOPOA (Metropolitan Omaha Property Owners Assoication) filed a federal lawsuit against the City. One of the complaints was the City taking anonymous complaints about the condition of properties. MOPOA argued a property owner had the right to know who was filing the complaint. U.S. District Court Judge Joseph Batallion agreed and ordered the City to include the name and contact information from persons filing a complaint."