State Senator Terrell McKinney, chair of Nebraska’s Urban Affairs Committee, hosted a hearing in North Omaha to address “affordable housing” in the next legislative session, first by learning how constituents define the term. The hearing on September 25th in Omaha, NE was on the “revolving definition” of affordable housing is meant to help shape legislation for the 2024 legislative session.
More than three dozen people testified for over three hours, rotating between developers and community members.
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development defines affordable housing as 30% of gross income. This grew from 20% of income in the 1940s for federally subsidized housing to 25% in 1969 and later the 30% threshold in 1981. For McKinney and his North Omaha community, which he said is the poorest in the state coupled with the highest rate of evictions and outdated amenities and accessibility issues, there is “no real affordable housing.” McKinney astutely cut to the heart of the issue when he observed, “Affordable is only affordable if you can afford it,”
Alec Gorynski, president and CEO of the Lincoln Community Foundation, testified "there is a common gap between the cost needed to build a home and affordability. This must be filled with some form of subsidy".
McKinney has pledged to make affordable housing needs a priority for the State and the next steps will be getting legislation drafted in the next three months to work toward some solutions in 2024.
At the hearing, multiple testifiers indicated they’ll advocate for housing justice measures introduced but stalled this year, many intersecting with the Judiciary Committee.
The Nebraska State Home Builders Association applauds Senator McKinney's efforts to address affordable housing. The Association disagrees with many who testified, taking the position that Government regulations, particularly those motivated by purely partisan political agendas, such as carbon neutrality, net-zero, bans on natural gas appliances, mandating high efficiency appliances, and adoption of codes and standards such as ICC's IEC, are significant contributing factors. Housing affordability is a statewide issue, not limited to specific demographics or geographies.
The Nebraska State Home Builders Association looks forward to working with Senator McKinney, the State Unicameral, Governor Jim Pillen, and our US Senators and Congressional representatives to find meaningful solutions to address issues such as high interest rates, rising inflation, availability of capital, labor shortages, taxes, unreliable logistics, critical material shortages and associated material costs, expensive building code and regulation compliance, cost and availability of insurance for builders and home owners, and the high cost of energy and the push for expensive unreliable renewables that lack the necessary and adequate infastructure.