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Residents share ideas with officials at affordable housing forum

December 3, 2018

Collective Impact Lincoln hosted a public forum at Huntington Elementary School on Saturday to discuss affordable housing issues in Lincoln.

Realtors, landlords, renters and property owners took turns sharing ideas and stories of their experiences in the Lincoln housing market while state and local lawmakers listened.

Collective Impact Lincoln is a partnership between three existing Lincoln nonprofits: Civic Nebraska, Nebraska Appleseed and the South of Downtown Community Development Organization.

They focus their mission on six core neighborhoods — Belmont, Clinton, Everett, Near South, Hartley and University Place.

José Lemus, a community organizer for Collective Impact Lincoln who helped to organize the forum, said these neighborhoods provide a good sense of Lincoln’s housing situation.

“They make a ring around downtown,” Lemus said. “It’s a good cross-section of what is happening in Lincoln. If you talk to any of the residents of these neighborhoods, you realize that they are champions and advocates. We want to hear them speak and hear their experiences.”

Lemus works in the Hartley and University Place areas, extending opportunities for residents to be heard in their community.

“My job is to work with them to help them be the advocates for their neighborhoods,” Lemus said. “It starts with training, and coming to events like this, because they’ll know better about whats good for their neighborhood than anyone else.”

Those in attendance had wide ranging backgrounds in Lincoln, with individuals from many neighborhoods.

Some chose to make the case for extended renters rights, while others focused on first-time homeowners.

“It’s not only about building student-style apartments, or Section 8 housing,” Lemus said. “It is about building mixed housing options. Lincoln is vibrant and different, so it’s not only building more but preserving the stock we have, and incentivizing landlords and tenants and owners to upkeep their property.”

One city official in attendance was Cyndi Lamm, a councilwoman who is now campaigning for mayor.

Lamm spoke of her own struggle with homelessness at the start of the event and said that time in her life has made housing an important issue in her campaign.

“Affordable housing has been close to my heart for a long time,” Lamm said. “I spent time homeless in Lincoln, so I recognize the difference between wants and needs, and shelter is a definite need.”

Lamm said she has worked hard to extend the conversation about housing in Lincoln.

“Housing affordability is a hallmark portion of my campaign,” Lamm said. “We have policies we can look at and revisit to make housing costs more affordable in Lincoln.”

Meetings like the one Saturday, Lamm said, are good chances for city and state officials to hear from their voters and to determine the course of action for issues like housing.

Regarding the housing market, Lamm said issues should be addressed by both Lincoln city government and the legislature.

“We can do a couple of things,” she said. “Certainly the state has steps it can take, but as a city we should be looking at help we can offer either in our building standards or inspection. What can we do to help make housing mHousigore affordable, and what policies can we re-examine?”

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