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Omaha and Lincoln meet to tackle climate change, affordable housing and other issues faced by both cities

Nebraska's largest cities teaming up to address state's problems
Posted at 6:46 PM, Nov 16, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-16 19:59:55-05

On Tuesday, Lincoln and Omaha's city councils banded together for a joint summit — giving city leaders the opportunity to bounce ideas off each other and tackle key issues like climate action, affordable housing and allocating American Rescue Plan Act dollars (ARPA).

"We're both required to do affordable housing plans, I think the city of Lincoln has already done theirs...we're just getting started," Omaha City Council President Pete Festersen said.

Affordable housing is a crisis happening all over the country. Lincoln is no different — considering the city's projected growth in the next decade. The City of Lincoln's Director of Urban Development Dan Marvin says there will be struggles to get housing for the owner-occupied side of things.

"That is going to be really difficult to provide for people who are struggling because you're going you're gonna need to create almost 4,000 homes that you are going to sell for $200,000 or less which is a difficult task to do," Marvin said.

Those involved say the rental market will need to create close to 5,000 apartment units that have a monthly rent of $1,000 or less.

"We'll need to create 17,000 living units and we're trying to split it 50-50. We made a choice there, looks like apartments are being utilized at a greater percentage than they were from 2000 to 2010," Marvin said.

It turns out Omaha is also no different.

"There was an assessment done that Omaha metropolitan area — not just the city of Omaha, but the metropolitan area — is about 80,000 affordable units short of meeting demand," City of Omaha Planning Director David Fanslau said.

Fanslau says meeting the demand is a "puzzle that all fits together."

"That can be from our zoning code to our master plan, to financial incentives, maybe city-based, most likely federally based, or philanthropic dollars come into play for that," Fanslau said.

"Let's not speak in terms of policies, we can speak in terms of goals. Our goals are providing units that are going to be affordable, that are going to be decent housing for people, that are going to respect source of income and look at those different tools," Marvin said.

Lincoln Council President James Michael Bowers also expressed interest in hearing about the Rapid Bus Transit on Dodge Street in Omaha and bringing it to the city he represents.

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