Session Review 2024Urban Affairs

Session Review: Urban Affairs

The Urban Affairs Committee advanced bills this session intended to coordinate anti-poverty initiatives, address concerns about Omaha’s public housing agency and give community members greater say in the development of a proposed inland port district in Omaha.

Anti-poverty, housing agency requirements

LB840, introduced by Omaha Sen. Terrell McKinney and passed on a vote of 28-19, 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.

Additionally, commissioners must hold a 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%.

Inland port authorities, community development

LB164, introduced by McKinney, makes several changes to the Municipal Inland Port Authority Act, which the Legislature created in 2021.

The act allows qualifying cities and counties to create an inland port authority with the power to plan and develop an inland port district. Up to five inland port districts may be designated throughout the state.

LB164 allows no more than one district to be created in a metropolitan class city.

The bill requires an inland port authority within the boundaries of a metropolitan class city to create and operate an innovation district, conduct quarterly public input meetings, create and maintain a community advisory committee and meet several other requirements.

LB164 also requires the state Department of Economic Development to meet certain requirements before releasing approximately $90 million in grant funds it awarded to a nonprofit to develop a North Omaha business park.

Additionally, the bill requires the state treasurer to transfer $30 million from the Economic Recovery Contingency Fund to a new Inland Port Authority Fund. The treasurer also will transfer a certain amount of interest earned on federal coronavirus relief funds, as well as on funds related to the Perkins County Canal Project and the construction of a new state prison, to the Inland Port Authority Fund for the next two fiscal years.

The treasurer will use the new fund to provide grants to an inland port authority created within the boundaries of a metropolitan class city.

The treasurer also will transfer $7 million from the Economic Recovery Contingency Fund to the Museum Construction and Maintenance Fund for the construction of a new museum at Fort Robinson State Park. The state Game and Parks Commission is required to build and manage the museum.

Finally, LB164 includes provisions of LB1416, introduced by Sen. Eliot Bostar of Lincoln at the request of Gov. Jim Pillen. They create two grant programs intended to increase Nebraska’s child care capacity.

Under the first program, the state Department of Economic Development will award grants to cities, villages, counties, nonprofits and other eligible recipients identified by a statewide organization that supports children and families.

Applicants are required to provide a one-to-one match before receiving a grant. They may use the funds to provide financial support to a licensed child care program or a license-exempt provider serving children enrolled in a child care subsidy program, among several other uses.

Under the second program, the department will provide grants to certain new and existing licensed family child care programs and to regional hubs that will provide administrative and technical support to those programs.

LB164 passed on a vote of 37-6 and took effect immediately.

Another bill advanced by the committee renames and expands a community development law and limits the number of special retail districts that may be created statewide.

The Nebraska Innovation Hub Act allows the director of the state Department of Economic Development to designate private nonprofit corporations and postsecondary educational institutions as innovation hubs in certain geographic areas to stimulate partnerships, economic development and job creation.

LB1344, sponsored by Omaha Sen. Justin Wayne and passed 41-0, allows an innovation hub to be located within an inland port district, 30 miles of a certain reservoir or any county with a population of less than 100,000.

The bill increases the maximum number of innovation hubs that may be designated in the state’s 1st Congressional District from four to six and in the 2nd Congressional District from three to four.

LB1344 also contains provisions of Wayne’s LB1356, which expand the definition of community betterment organization to include inland port authorities.

The bill renames and modifies the Community Development Assistance Act, which allows cities, villages, counties and other community betterment organizations engaged in eligible activities in community development areas to apply to the DED to have one or more programs certified for tax credit status.

Under the new Creating High Impact Economic Futures Act, agribusinesses, innovation hubs and inland port authorities also are classified as community betterment organizations.

The definition of community development area expands to include economic redevelopment areas, enterprise zones, counties with a population of less than 10,000 and inland port districts.

The operations of inland port authorities, sports complexes and intermodal facilities are among the new activities that are eligible for tax credit status.

Under the bill, individuals are eligible for a nonrefundable income tax credit equal to 100% of their contributions to a community betterment organization’s certified programs or projects. Passthrough entities, corporations and estates or trusts are eligible for a nonrefundable credit equal to 50% of their contributions.

LB1344 limits total credits for 2025 and 2026 to $900,000 per year, with a total of $300,000 per year for each congressional district. The annual limit increases to $3 million for 2027 and later years, with a total of $1 million per year for each district.

The maximum amount of credits per program or project is limited to $150,000 per year for both the 1st and 3rd congressional districts.

Finally, LB1344 contains provisions of Wayne’s LB1228, under which no more than five good life districts may be created statewide. Under the bill, only one good life district may be created in a county with a population of 500,000 or more, not including a district created within an inland port district.

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