New website focuses on problem Omaha rental properties

Published 02-24-2019

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OMAHA, Neb. (AP) - Several advocacy groups have set up a website that focuses public attention on problem rental properties in Omaha and what the groups say is the need for an inspection program.

The site is called We Don't Slum - a play on the Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce's We Don't Coast slogan.

On it are photos and videos submitted by renters and advocacy group members showing dilapidated conditions inside and outside rental units: overflowing dumpsters, cracks in walls and windows, dead mice, moldy walls, rusted shelving and cockroaches.

The site does not identify specific rental properties or property owners so the renters can remain anonymous if they fear retaliation from their landlords. Renters also can post photos to social media with the hashtag #wedontslum.

"We don't want slumlords operating in our city anymore," said Hannah Wyble at a news conference announcing the site Tuesday. She's executive director of Restoring Dignity, a refugee advocacy group involved in the inspections and evacuation of the Yale Park Apartments in September. Nearly 100 complaints had been filed by occupants who had been living with bedbugs, lice, rodents, gas leaks and mold in the north Omaha complex.

The city inspects rental properties only when a complaint is made, but advocates have said more housing problems would be uncovered and resolved if units were inspected regularly.

Mayor Jean Stothert has expressed concern about the cost of hiring more inspectors, but on Tuesday said she's asked the city Law Department to draft a rental inspection ordinance. It would establish a free registration system for landlords and an inspection program targeting landlords who have not remedied code violations in the past three years, she said.

A bill sponsored by state Sen. Justin Wayne requiring Omaha rentals to be registered and inspected every three years has been delayed since Wayne gave Omaha leaders the option of coming up with their own ordinance.

Mayor Jean Stothert has expressed concern about the cost of hiring more inspectors, but on Tuesday said she's asked the city Law Department to draft a rental inspection ordinance. It would establish a free registration system for landlords and an inspection program targeting landlords who have not remedied code violations in the past three years, she said.

A bill sponsored by state Sen. Justin Wayne requiring Omaha rentals to be registered and inspected every three years has been delayed since Wayne gave Omaha leaders the option of coming up with their own ordinance.

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