Urban Affairs

Local anti-poverty plans, housing agency requirements approved

A bill intended to coordinate anti-poverty initiatives, as well as address concerns about Omaha’s public housing agency, received final approval from lawmakers April 11.

Sen. Terrell McKinney
Sen. Terrell McKinney

LB840, introduced by Omaha Sen. Terrell McKinney, requires certain cities to adopt a poverty elimination action plan no later than July 1, 2025, reevaluate the plan every two years and update it every five. Cities must submit the plans to the Urban Affairs Committee and the Clerk of the Legislature.

Each city’s plan must outline its goals for eliminating poverty in current high-poverty areas, qualified census tracts and economic redevelopment areas and describe its planned use of federal, state and local incentives to reach that goal.

In addition to the plans, LB840 requires cities to submit a report to the committee every other year describing their efforts to eliminate poverty.

The requirements apply only to primary and metropolitan class cities. Lincoln is the state’s only primary class city, and Omaha is its only metropolitan class city.

LB840 also contains provisions of four other bills heard by the committee this session.

The amended provisions of LB530, sponsored by McKinney, make several changes related to local housing agencies established by metropolitan class cities.

Under the bill, the mayor will appoint an agency’s nine commissioners — an increase from seven — including three resident commissioners. A commissioner may not have an ownership interest in or be employed by any entity doing business with the agency.

The bill requires a housing agency to comply with federal regulations regarding administrative grievance procedures and establish a complaint process for residents.

As amended on select file, LB840 also requires a housing agency to make contact information for senior leadership and commissioners publicly available at the agency’s offices and on its website.

Additionally, commissioners must hold a regular board meeting at least once every 90 days at a public housing facility that has at least 100 units. The agency is required to post all meeting notices and agendas in common spaces.

Currently, a housing agency resident has the opportunity to contest the termination of their tenancy in a hearing conducted by the agency.

The amended provisions of LB1046, sponsored by Sen. John Cavanaugh of Omaha, create new requirements for that process and for related eviction proceedings if a premises is located in a metropolitan class city.

Beginning July 1, 2025, counsel must be appointed for the resident prior to the termination hearing unless they already are represented. If the resident does not request a hearing and the housing agency files an eviction, the county court is required to appoint counsel to represent the resident during eviction proceedings.

The housing agency will pay for any court-appointed counsel and cannot assess a fee against any resident for legal services provided.

LB840 also contains two proposals intended to address Nebraska’s affordable housing shortage.

The amended provisions of LB881, introduced by Lincoln Sen. Beau Ballard, change the definition of urban community in the Middle Income Workforce Housing Investment Act to allow cities in Lancaster and Sarpy counties other than Lincoln and Omaha to qualify for grants under the act.

The provisions of LB843, also sponsored by McKinney, increase from $5 million to $10 million the maximum grant that the state Department of Economic Development may award to a nonprofit development organization under the act.

The bill also decreases the amount of matching funds an applicant must provide from at least 50% of the grant funds awarded to at least 25%.

LB840 passed on a vote of 28-19.

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