OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — Tuesday, the Omaha City Council passed the Urban Core Housing and Mobility Redevelopment plan, which aims to bring jobs and residents to the city through robust development over the next couple of decades.
Under the plan, 1,000 affordable and workforce housing units will be created in the heart of the city, including new development, revitalization of existing units, and redevelopment of old buildings.
Housing advocates say the plan is a great start, citing the importance of affordable housing.
"Affordable housing is vital and crucial to a healthy community," Mike Hornacek, President and CEO of Together said. "Having housing gives us better health better access to jobs better access to health in general."
Hornacek adds, though, that thousands more units are needed. He says right now the shortage is about 70,000 units and by 2040 that will increase by about another 10,000.
"It’s a huge step in the right direction but we need a lot more opportunities," Hornacek said. "We need really a very large community-wide effort looking at rehabbing old units, building new construction, looking at creative and new ideas about old hospitals and nursing homes and hotels. We need to really look at opportunities we can develop and build more."
According to the strategic plan, new units will not only be available for lower rent, but also built to high-efficiency standards, impacting the overall affordability. But, the plan defines affordable housing as units affordable to households earning no more than80% of the income limits determined by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Hornacek says that the benchmark is still very high compared to what many in the community need.
"The large majority of the people we’re serving through our pantry or through our housing programs are probably 30% or lower of the Douglas county area median income. So if we’re taking it in that context we talk about affordable housing we’re talking about rent that's considerably less than somebody that's talking about 80 percent of the area median income," Hornacek said.
He adds that we need housing targeted to those making 30 to 60% of the median income limits.
Hornacek says it's also important for affordable housing to include neighborhood amenities, such as grocery stores, access to medical care and more.
"I think tied to affordable housing are really the community and neighborhood developments that go with it. Housing is only one thing and it’s really an important thing along with food but for us to have good neighborhoods, good community, good public health, it’s really needing people from their housing to have access to all the amenities a community should have," Hornacek said.
According to the strategic plan, services such as daycare, medical care and groceries are critical to new development. Affordable and workforce housing will be one of the initial tasks.