Published Tuesday, October 1, 2013 at 1:00 am / Updated at 5:02 pm
World-Herald editorial: City addressing vacant properties

Dilapidated, abandoned houses put a real burden on many Omaha neighborhoods.

The structures pull down property values. They lure children into dangerous exploration. And too often, they provide havens for drug dealing, copper wire thefts and fires.

The city government’s demolition list currently totals about 775 properties, a number that well exceeds the city’s bulldozing capacity. At present, the city is able to address about 20 percent of that, according to Kevin Denker, the city’s chief housing code inspector.

There is some good news, though. An encouraging consensus has emerged that the city needs to do more to address the vacant properties.

City leaders have pumped more money into demolitions. The city is receiving positive feedback from neighborhoods about the increased demolitions. And Omaha is setting the stage for a major step forward with the creation of a land bank.

As The World-Herald’s Christopher Burbach explained in Monday news coverage, the city will spend more than $850,000 this year knocking down problem properties, more than double the amount budgeted last year. And the 2014 demolition budget totals $957,000.

City Councilman Ben Gray said residents have expressed strong support for the city’s increased focus on the problem.

So far this year, the city has torn down nearly 100 condemned properties, nearly three times the number for all of 2012. Still, that’s far short of the 775 or so dilapidated houses that need removal.

That’s why city government and the Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce supported creation of a land bank to oversee redevelopment of vacant, tax-delinquent property and return it to productive use. State Sen. Heath Mello of Omaha made the proposal his priority bill in the Legislature this year and negotiated the details with parties including the banking and real estate sectors and Habitat for Humanity.

The Legislature approved the plan 47-0 last spring, and Gov. Dave Heineman signed it into law.

A land bank, currently approved in four other states, is given authority to buy, manage and develop vacant and tax-delinquent properties. It can put them together into larger parcels to be sold for new housing, businesses or parks. A land bank can borrow money and issue bonds, but it can’t levy taxes or exercise the power of eminent domain.

Omaha city leaders are currently working to or- ganize the land bank, to be run by a volunteer board. Land bank funding can include money from the city government; state and federal grants; philanthropic donations; and half of the property tax revenues for the first five years after a property is redeveloped.

As we’ve noted before, it will be crucial for the land bank’s board and staff to carry out their duties with a high level of professionalism, efficiency and openness. Community input will be a key, which is why the Legislature required that the land bank’s seven-member board include a representative from each of the seven City Council districts.

There is no quick solution to Omaha’s problem with abandoned houses. But the combination of increased demolitions and creation of the land bank should lead to major progress in the years ahead.

Read more related stories
State Department moves to delay Keystone XL pipeline decision
Omahan charged in fatal shooting in Benson neighborhood
Friday's attendance dips at Millard West after bathroom threat
High school slam poets don't just recite verses, 'they leave their hearts beating on the stage'
Crack ring's leaders join others in prison as a result of Operation Purple Haze
High court denies death row appeal of cult leader convicted of murder
Haze in area comes from Kansas, Oklahoma
Man taken into custody in domestic dispute
Omaha judge reprimanded for intervening in peer attorney's DUI case
Intoxicated man with pellet gun climbs billboard's scaffold; is arrested
Police seek public's help in finding an armed man
Saturday forecast opens window for gardening; Easter egg hunts look iffy on Sunday
Database: How much did Medicare pay your doctor?
Last day of 2014 Legislature: Praise, passage of a last few bills and more on mountain lions
New public employee pay data: Douglas, Lancaster, Sarpy Counties, plus utilities
A voice of experience: Ex-gang member helps lead fight against Omaha violence
Church is pressing its case for old Temple Israel site
OPPD board holding public forum, open house May 7
The thrill of the skill: Omaha hosts statewide contest for students of the trades
A recap of what got done — and what didn't — in the 2014 legislative session
When judge asks, Nikko Jenkins says ‘I killed them’
Nancy's Almanac, April 17, 2014: Trees save money
'The war is not over,' Chambers says, but legislative session about is
PAC funded by Senate candidate Ben Sasse's great-uncle releases Shane Osborn attack ad
Teen killed at Gallagher Park was shot in head as he sat in SUV, friend who was wounded says
< >
Breaking Brad: Stuck in a claw machine? You get no Easter candy
I know of one kid in Lincoln who will be receiving a lump of coal from the Easter Bunny, just as soon as he's extricated from that bowling alley claw machine.
Breaking Brad: Mountain lion season's over, but the bunny's fair game!
Thursday was the last day of a Nebraska Legislature session. Before leaving town, legislators passed a bill to hold a lottery to hunt the Easter Bunny.
Breaking Brad: At least my kid never got stuck inside a claw machine
We need a new rule in Lincoln. If your kid is discovered inside the claw machine at a bowling alley, you are forever barred from being nominated for "Mother of the Year."
Breaking Brad: How many MECA board members can we put in a luxury suite?
As a stunt at the Blue Man Group show, MECA board members are going to see how many people they can stuff into one luxury suite.
Kelly: Creighton's McDermotts put good faces on an Omaha tradition
A comical roast Wednesday night in Omaha brought fans of Creighton basketball laughter by the bucketful. This time it was McJokes, not McBuckets, that entertained the Bluejay crowd.
Deadline Deal thumbnail
The Jaipur in Rockbrook Village
Half Off Fine Indian Cuisine & Drinks! $15 for Dinner, or $7 for Lunch
Buy Now
< >
Omaha World-Herald Contests
Enter for a chance to win great prizes.
OWH Store: Buy photos, books and articles
Buy photos, books and articles
Travel Snaps Photo
Going on Vacation? Take the Omaha World-Herald with you and you could the next Travel Snaps winner.
Click here to donate to Goodfellows
The 2011 Goodfellows fund drive provided holiday meals to nearly 5,000 families and their children, and raised more than $500,000 to help families in crisis year round.
Want to get World-Herald stories sent directly to your home or work computer? Sign up for's News Alerts and you will receive e-mails with the day's top stories.
Can't find what you need? Click here for site map »