More details have come to light regarding the City of Omaha's inspection at Yale Park Apartments that led to the evacuation of around 500 tenants.
The city estimates there were between 2,000 and 3,000 violations, which include gas leaks, electricity concerns, bed bugs, rodents, and maggots.
Inspectors hope to get all of the citations to landlords by the end of the week, but that process has been difficult because of the amount of paperwork.
Building owner Kay Anderson has 30 days to get the building back up to code, which includes major fixes to the fire hazards and gas leaks.
Wednesday morning, community organization Omaha Together One Community issued a statement about the violations:
“Yale Park Apartments is not a ‘one of kind problem’ in Omaha. It is a symptom of a housing code enforcement system that doesn't work well” said OTOC leader Dennis Walsh. OTOC leaders have been raising this issue with City staff and City Council members since early 2017. OTOC is asking the City to look at ordinances like those that Council Bluffs, LaVista and Carter Lake have adopted over the last decade. Those cities require that all rental properties are registered with the city and periodically inspected to assure they are safe and habitable.
"Omaha has a complaint driven system where the city will not inspect unless there is a complaint filed by the tenants. According to OTOC leader Dennis Walsh, 'This is like a food safety system in which there are no random inspections of food processors or restaurants. Instead the city simply waits for diners who get sick or medical personnel to call in complaints.' ”
In its press release, the organization called on the city to make the following changes:
- Hire all of the housing code inspectors that are in the annual city budget — in eight of the last 10 years, the city has failed to actually hire all of the code inspectors budgeted.
- Develop a system requiring that all rental properties are registered so the City of Omaha knows which properties are rental units;
- And inspect all rental properties periodically to assure they are safe and habitable for the tenants.
According to OTOC, housing organizations like Habitat for Humanity will be sharing what they discovered on visits to substandard rental homes in Omaha.
OTOC press conference
3:30 p.m. Wednesday
Prior to Wednesday's press conference, the city issued the following response:
"The City is required by a federal court order to include the name and contact information (phone number) of the person making a report of a housing code violation. Without this information, we cannot submit the report. In 2003, MOPOA (Metropolitan Omaha Property Owners Assoication) filed a federal lawsuit against the City. One of the complaints was the City taking anonymous complaints about the condition of properties. MOPOA argued a property owner had the right to know who was filing the complaint. U.S. District Court Judge Joseph Batallion agreed and ordered the City to include the name and contact information from persons filing a complaint."
City officials responded to the OTOC directives during a follow-up press conference Wednesday afternoon.
City of Omaha responds
4:30 p.m. Wednesday