Omaha City Council and Local Organizations Lobby to Address Affordable Housing Crisis

OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) – Progress is being made to further address the affordable housing crisis facing the Omaha metro.

Tuesday, Omaha City Council approved a resolution calling on the planning department to create an affordable housing action plan by January 2023. But this is not the only step the community has taken to try to provide affordable housing to members of the community of Omaha and Council Bluffs.

“When we know the people who serve our community, be it firefighters, teachers, frontline workers, when they can’t afford to live in the communities they serve, when we know the people who move to the area cannot find security and affordable housing that is not overcharged, it becomes a crisis, ”says Naomi Hattaway, director of operations at Investments of the entrance porch.

The new organization was created following a shocking report which showed the growing gap in affordable housing in the region.

The report estimates that Omaha needs 80,000 to 100,000 affordable units to meet the needs.

And besides the gap in supply, the creators of Front Porch Investments realized there was a need to connect those who were working towards the same goal. They now hope to be the one stop shop for all things affordable housing.

“It’s not that we are bringing something brand new to the region, it’s things that are happening across the country,” Hattaway told 6 News. “But what we knew had to be done locally was to kind of catalyze the work already being done by the developers, the nonprofits, our funding sources and just come together, collaborate and start taking smarter and more efficient decisions. “

The organization will develop and launch two funds, one of them a Preservation and Development Fund to help launch more affordable housing projects, while maintaining existing affordable and available housing.

The second fund will be the “greenlining” fund, which will have a direct impact on community members who were affected by redlining in the 1950s and 1960s. The mortgage industry at the time identified certain locations in different cities. which she saw as bad investments for mortgages, especially in northern and southern Omaha. The Green Fund will bring the voices of those affected or historically excluded from conversations about affordable housing.

Affordable Housing Developer Ryan Durant, President of the RMD real estate group, says an organization like this will only help move the conversation forward.

“I think the collaboration between for-profit, non-profit and government organizations is the key to moving all of this forward,” Durant said.

Front Porch Investments aims to create partnerships between different sectors, stakeholders and policy makers.

“We have the political will of our elected officials, but we can’t expect them to know everything about affordable housing and ending homelessness, it’s an extremely complex ecosystem,” says Hattaway. “So Front Porch also exists to help with this conversation about what kind of policy would be needed to make sure that whatever we do that catalyzes our community with funding also has a policy around it to make sure it rest. “

“You know, 80,000 units is a lot of units to deal with, so having something like that in place is going to be definitely monumental in addressing the housing issues in our communities,” Durant said.

He also says that right now is the best time to have these conversations.

“One of the biggest challenges we have right now is the cost. Construction costs have increased by 30-40%, over a typical year you would see an increase of 3 or 4%. “

Durant’s company is about to begin developing 48 affordable housing apartments on 25th and Chandler in Sarpy County.

“It will be a mix of three and four bedroom units,” he says. The goal is to help restore affordable housing in Sarpy County that was destroyed in the March 2019 floods.

But, Durant says that a handful of its 600 affordable units in the metro area are still waiting to be rehabilitated or completed to allow families to move in. The missing piece always comes down to one thing: funding.

“We hope that the funds will arrive through the American Rescue Act, other sources, non-profit organizations, that we can hopefully fill these gaps and secure these housing units for some of Omaha’s most vulnerable populations, ”he said.

Pressure from city council for an affordable housing action plan could help address these issues and divide the nearly $ 20 million the metro area is expected to get from the American Rescue Act.

The same goes for Front Porch Investments.

“Thinking of the US bailout dollars, for example, how do we make sure that we leverage and catalyze that dollar amount, match it with other public and private funds to really make sure that Omaha and Council Bluffs see the impact of this, ”Hattaway said.

“What we’re trying to answer the call for is how we can provide some sort of funding gap for the developers, if we were to ask them to make sure there are affordable units in their developments or even if we go one step further and ask that these units be fully accessible, we often hear back, “but it’s expensive,” she says. “The rising construction costs are hitting everyone and therefore Front Porche wants to try. to identify where we can fit with some of this additional funding. “

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