Advocating for Safe, Affordable Housing

Legislative Bill 85, introduced by Sen. Justin Wayne (Omaha), would implement a rental property registration system and inspection law in cities in Nebraska. This legislation would help ensure the safety and adequate maintenance of rental properties, allowing more Omaha families to experience security and stability in their homes. Following is testimony Habitat Omaha submitted Jan. 22 to the Nebraska Legislature’s Urban Affairs Committee in support of this proposal:

Habitat Omaha’s vision is, “a world where everyone has a decent place to live.” We work toward this goal by creating more opportunities for quality, affordable homeownership in Douglas, Washington and Burt Counties. Through our Homeownership Program, we build and renovate houses that are sold to lower-income, first-time homeowners. We work to make neighborhoods safer by demolishing vacant, blighted structures, and we offer a variety of home improvement loans and services to qualified lower-income households. Since 1984, we’ve served more than 1,500 local families and partnered with tens of thousands of volunteers and supporters along the way.

 

Our staff and volunteers have seen the unsafe, unhealthy conditions that low-income renters are forced to call home far too often. We, too, have been in Yale Park Apartments and other squalid and inadequately maintained rentals during home visits that were made as part of our application process. Our team has seen these problem properties first hand for years, which is why we work with such urgency to provide quality, affordable housing for our neighbors.

 

We have diligently reported code violations to the city planning department. And we have helped families to know their rights as they worked to extricate themselves from slumlords and their properties, and move into Habitat Omaha homes or other safe, quality housing. But we can and must do more.

 

There is a real financial cost directly tied to unsafe, unhealthy housing—not only for the families living in it—but for the community as a whole.

 

Stable, affordable housing must be a priority for all of us. Unsafe and unaffordable housing undermines the strength and stability of our communities. It contributes to the cycle of poverty, exacerbates chronic health conditions, inhibits child development, deteriorates neighborhoods, and creates needless challenges for our neighbors as they work to build independence and opportunity for their families.

 

Feeling safe and secure at home is something we all deserve. With a solid roof overhead and a strong foundation underfoot, we are healthier, we sleep more soundly at night, and we are able to focus on our responsibilities and ambitions without the distraction, worry, and stress that come with an unsafe, unhealthy home.

 

A rental property registration system and inspection law would go a long way toward alleviating physical, mental and financial hardships that are harming our neighbors and undermining the strength of our communities.

 

We urge you to support LB85 to help ensure substandard rental housing conditions do not persist in our communities.

 

We will continue to report code violations and to help families move from substandard and high-priced rentals into affordable homes. In partnership with coalitions, communities of faith, neighborhood associations, elected officials and the private sector, we can create more safe and affordable housing opportunities for everyone. LB85 would be a huge step to get us there.

 

Thank you for your time and dedication to the people of Nebraska.

We will keep you posted on the developments of this important legislation and how you can help advance it in the Nebraska legislature.