All over Omaha, homes that were once places of comfort are now dilapidated because they've been vacant for years. The city has a new tool to keep this from happening anymore.
Tuesday afternoon, the Omaha City Council unanimously approved the Vacant and Abandoned Property Ordinance.
The ordinance holds property owners accountable if the city's received complaints about a home being in disrepair by charging a $500 registration fee every three months it's not taken care of.
There are more than 800 homes on the city's demolition list, and they don't want taxpayers footing the bill anymore.
“What this is going to do is going to send a message to specifically some of our slum lords in the community quite frankly who have not chosen to take care of their properties who have chosen only to collect as much rent as they can get and then move on to the next thing,” said Council President Ben Gray.
“Zombie Mortgages” are a major concern for organizations like Omaha Together One Community, Habitat for Humanity, and neighbors. “Zombie Mortgages” are homes where the owner can’t pay the mortgage so they’re turned over to the bank, but the bank doesn’t complete the foreclosure process so it becomes abandoned. They worry the new amendments to the ordinance don’t address these situations.
"The progress of a neighborhood being halted and traditions lost. All of those are moral topics, banks that hold zombie loan mortgages are failing morally," said Pastor Jason Emerson of the Episcopal Church of Resurrection, and OTOC.
The city's law department says the ordinance will still cover some of these “Zombie Mortgages.” They say it doesn't have to be foreclosed upon by the bank for them to register as long as one of 3 identified transfer processes have started.
Investors who are flipping homes, snowbirds, and others in similar situations would not be forced to register.
The city says a large part of these vacant or abandoned properties are owned by out of state banks.