A state senator wants the Nebraska Legislature to require landlord registration and more regular inspections of rental units in Omaha, saying the displacement of 500 refugees from a squalid apartment complex shows the city needs a new regulatory approach.
Sen. Justin Wayne said Thursday that the poor housing conditions "perpetuated by certain landlords have been a longstanding problem in north Omaha and throughout the city, and the Yale Park situation demonstrates the need for a new approach to address code violations in rental properties."
Social service agencies scrambled last month to help the refugees from Myanmar find new places to live. Omaha housing inspectors pored over the Yale Park Apartments on Sept. 20 because of nearly 100 complaints filed by occupants who had been living with bedbugs, lice, rodents, gas leaks and mold in the north Omaha complex.
Officials described the action as a "humanitarian effort" for the refugees who fled ethnic unrest in their home country and found work in Omaha-area meatpacking plants.
Mayor Jean Stothert criticized Wayne's proposal, saying city officials are in the best position to regulate rentals.
"I don't feel like we need the state coming in with a state law dictating what we need to do," Stothert told the Omaha World-Herald. The city needs a way to target offending landlords, she said.
It's unclear why Wayne's proposed legislation would apply only to cities with a population of more than 300,000, which means only Omaha. He didn't immediately return messages left Friday from The Associated Press.
The Metropolitan Omaha Property Owners Association, the Omaha Area Board of Realtors and the Apartment Association of Nebraska have said they will oppose any attempt to impose a registration system or require more frequent inspections.