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Effort to prevent evictions fails in the Legislature

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Nebraska Legislature

On the sixth day of the Nebraska Legislature’s summer session, lawmakers debated senators’ efforts to increase affordable housing and place a moratorium on evictions as the pandemic continues. 

LB866, introduced by Sen. Justin Wayne of Omaha on July 27, would incentivize cities to build affordable housing. Called the Density Bonus and Inclusionary Housing Act, the bill would allow for builders to build more units in an area than usually allowed and provide other incentives such as a reduction in site development standards and waived parking requirements. 

The incentives would only apply to projects creating a certain percentage of low-income housing units. The density bonuses would also only apply in areas that have been designated as substandard and blighted.

No vote was taken on the bill, and senators failed to pass an amendment to the bill proposed by Sen. Adam Morfeld of Lincoln meant to prevent evictions during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The amendment was ruled ungermane, or not relevant to the bill it was seeking to amend, and a motion to override the ruling failed.

A previous executive order signed by Gov. Pete Ricketts on March 25 had placed a moratorium on evictions until May 31.

Sen. Curt Friesen of Henderson said he agreed that the bill and Morfeld’s amendment were addressing two different topics and felt there were issues that would arise from the amendment that hadn’t been addressed. 

“It looks to me like in one situation we’re talking about zoning and what cities can do in order to ensure that affordable housing is built in their city, their villages,” Friesen said. “And on the other hand, you’re talking about something that can have an impact on loans and mortgage rates and all sorts of other things that you may get into when you put a moratorium on either the renters or the landlord.”

Morfeld said he acknowledged that the amendment differed in subject from the bill, but believed it was germane and that flexibility was needed during the pandemic. He said the bill is critical for many Nebraskans, and there will not be another chance before the session ends to address this issue. 

“This is an opportunity to be flexible and respond to the critical needs of Nebraskans,” he said. “What could be more critical than people having a roof over their head? What could be more critical than making sure that we have landlords that can continue to operate apartments, homes and other facilities so people can have that roof over their head?”