City council hears testimony on rental housing regulations

OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - Hundreds of people gathered at Omaha's City Hall Tuesday evening to voice their opinion on rental housing regulations.

The council was considering three different proposals aimed at ensuring rental housing is up to par.

Tenants, landlords, activists and lawmakers all showed up to voice their support for increased regulations or voice their concern.

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

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

"And furthermore, I was visited by my landlord's own pastor - to whom I never gave my address - 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," housing advocate Chase Vanderveen said to the city council.

Sen. 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 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," one opponent said before the city council.

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. That coverage can be found here.