Rental housing proposals go before city council

OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - Mayor Jean Stothert wants the City of Omaha to control how it deals with bad landlords, not the state.

The mayor has crafted a housing ordinance that partially contradicts her own opinions, and is open to the city council making changes.

"It doesn't bother me at all that mine is amended or that we change it. I wanted to put something forward because I did not want the State Legislature to pass something into State Law," Stothert told 6 News.

Her ordinance went before the city council for a first reading on Tuesday, along with two other proposed ordinances addressing the same issue.

All three are intended to prevent another incident like the one at the Yale Park apartment complex, where thousands of code violations were found and all of the tenants evacuated.

"I think proactive inspections can work if you have properties that are non-compliant, but I don't think proactive inspections are necessary if you have good properties that never have code violations," Stothert said.

However, the mayor's proposal as written would require exactly that.

Violations or not, most rental units would have to be inspected every three years starting three years from the date the ordinance is passed.

"I'm certainly open, though, for the city council to amend that and to perhaps say that within that three year period they don't have any code violations they could give them another three year period and maybe another three year period," Stothert said.

The mayor said she is against the ordinance proposed by councilmen Ben Gray and Chris Jarram, which requires proactive inspections of most units every year.

"It's just not a practical solution for Omaha. We can't inspect 90,000 rental units every year, and there's no reason why we should," she said.

The mayor said they can focus on inspecting the units with current code violations, which is something all three ordinances have in common.

Sen. Justin Wayne, who has proposed a bill to regulate rental housing said he is satisfied with the mayor's current proposal, so his bill is on hold. He was disappointed in initial plans from the mayor.

A free landlord registry and educational components are also found in all three proposals.