Housing authority consolidation planning advances

Lawmakers gave first-round approval Jan. 31 to a bill intended to create a regional housing authority in Omaha.

As introduced by Omaha Sen. Brad Ashford, LB49 would have merged the Omaha Metropolitan Housing Authority and the Douglas County Housing Authority into a permanent, nondissolvable regional housing authority.

Ashford said there are many challenges to creating affordable housing in the Omaha metro area and that merging the existing city and county housing authorities likely would make the process more efficient.

An Urban Affairs Committee amendment, adopted 41–0, replaced the bill and instead would create a joint committee to develop a plan for the creation of a single housing authority in a county with a metropolitan class city. Currently, Omaha is the only metropolitan class city in Nebraska.

Lincoln Sen. Amanda McGill, chairperson of the committee, said the amended bill would allow interested parties to develop a plan and present it to the Legislature, rather than forcing a structure on them.

“I think this is a good compromise that still pushes us in the right direction,” she said.

Under the bill, the committee would consist of two members from the board of each existing housing authority or agency. The original four members of the committee then would select three additional members.

The committee would be required to report to the Urban Affairs Committee by Jan. 1, 2014.

LB49 advanced to select file on a 39-0 vote.

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