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Omaha City Council approves tax incentive for Habitat for Humanity project

Omaha City Council approves tax incentive for Habitat for Humanity project

Amid an increase in complaints from nearby businesses and residents, police have cleared an encampment on private land north of downtown Omaha used by homeless people.

A project that aims to build more than 80 houses for people with low to moderate incomes on the site of a demolished apartment complex advanced this week with the city’s approval of a tax incentive.

The Omaha City Council on Tuesday approved a $3.44 million tax-increment financing request for the project, which is being undertaken by Habitat for Humanity of Omaha.

Habitat’s proposal calls for about 85 single-family houses to be built on more than 15 acres of land near Sorensen Parkway and 51st Street. The land has been vacant since the city tore down the condemned Wintergreen Apartments in 2006.

The project cost is estimated at more than $21.5 million. Omaha Mayor Jean Stothert announced in May that the city would partner with Habitat on the project.

The homes could be move-in ready by fall 2024, offering an affordable housing lifeline in Omaha’s increasingly expensive housing market, Habitat spokeswoman Tracie McPherson said Tuesday.

“If you look at the way the housing market has drastically changed in Omaha in the last year or so, it’s getting harder and harder for working-class families to be able to afford homes,” McPherson said. “We’re super excited for this opportunity to provide the community with more affordable housing.”

Twenty of the 85 homes will be geared toward “empty nesters.”

“We have folks who want a home where they can age in place,” McPherson said. “It’s going to be a smaller unit, half won’t have stairs. We’ve gotten so many phone calls about those, which shows that there’s a real need.”

The multi-generational development looks to include a city park and new bike and walking paths that connect the homes to the surrounding neighborhood, including Wakonda Elementary School, according to Habitat. The houses will be sold at the appraised value to people with low to moderate incomes.

Habitat will establish income guidelines for the homes and homeownership counseling to get families mortgage-ready, McPherson said.

Tax-increment financing, or TIF as it’s commonly known, is an incentive meant to spur redevelopment in areas deemed “blighted.” The developer takes out a loan to help cover eligible redevelopment expenses — typically aspects of a project that benefit the public such as roads. The loan is repaid by using the increased property taxes that are generated on the new development.

For the habitat project, the loan has an interest rate of 3.75%. The interest must be paid in addition to the $3.44 million principal amount.

A number of plans and ideas for the site have been discussed since the troubled Wintergreen Apartments fell into disrepair, were ordered vacated, sat open to vandals and arsonists and were finally demolished 15 years ago. The city first put together a redevelopment plan in 2007.

The current plan stems from a request for proposals that the city put out in September 2020. Habitat made a proposal and learned in March that it had been accepted. The city transferred ownership of the land to Habitat in July., 402-444-1067

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Jessica Wade covers breaking news, crime and the Omaha zoo. Follow her on Twitter @Jess_Wade_OWH. Phone: 402-444-1067

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