City Goes After Vacant Properties
After months of talks and gathering data, Omaha's Landlord Task Force is ready to put their plan into action. Mayor Jim Suttle hopes to keep vacant properties, from becoming a breeding ground for illegal activity. Currently the city has identified 971 homes considered vacant, 400 of which are on the list for demolition.
"We know that criminal activity tends to occur in areas where landlords neglect their property," Mayor Suttle explained.
One of the major changes will be to allow residential property owners to post a sign that says when their property is closed. It can be for actual homes or empty lots where people are known to gather. Then, police wouldn't need a reason to approach squatters.
"A lot of these properties, and I could probably point out 3 or 4 in town that we are aware of right now, that have drinking and use of illegal drugs and fights that happen all the time and there's neighbors that don't think that's really much of a good thing," said Mike Getty, Assistant City Prosecutor.
"So that police have a little bit more authority to address problems that may occur without the landlord's knowledge," said Councilman Ben Gray.
Also, the Omaha City Inspector will email a list of vacant properties to the police and fire departments every single night. That will give authorities more knowledge before entering any building deemed vacant. OFD wants to secure these structures before anything bad happens. Last year, 13% of Omaha fires were in vacant homes.
"The idea that all of those things coming together, keeping the building secure, us having a better knowledge as a fire department, and sharing with the city officials we can reduce the possibility of those fires," said OFD Chief Mike McDonnell.
The third change Mayor Suttle announced will be to revitalize the Neighborhood Scan Program, which lets residents make general assessments of neighborhood properties. Local neighborhood associations can then send letters to the property owners. If nothing changes they can file a complaint with the city.
They hope to make the change to the ordinance official in about a month. The next 3 recommendations from t