Yesterday, Restoring Dignity stood in solidarity with various advocacy organizations in Omaha, as well as with former and current tenants of the landlord Dave Paladino, to testify in front of Omaha’s City Council about the TIF financing that Mr. Paladino has applied for to renovate two buildings near downtown Omaha. As many volunteers with Restoring Dignity can testify, the conditions in many of the apartment units that we have observed that are owned by Mr. Paladino, have been substandard to say the least. This is based on conditions that we have seen since we first began “making over” refugee homes in 2012.
A search into past pictures of families we have served who lived in Paladino units, show that the same issues that are happening today in his rentals have been happening since at least 2013.
In June 2016 we served a refugee family living in one of Mr. Paladino’s units who had been struggling with a significant bed bug and mouse infestation.
One of the worst areas we ever observed were in Mr. Paladino’s units off of Northwest Radial Highway. Pictures tell the story the best. These were taken in November 2013.
If past pictures do not hit home with readers, then perhaps current pictures will. These pictures were taken in December 2018 and January 2019. They are all from Paladino properties.
Our past experience with Mr. Paladino’s substandard rental units compelled Restoring Dignity to publicly testify before Omaha’s City Council. The following testimony was given:
To watch the testimonies of almost two dozen tenants, organizations, and concerned citizens, please see the following video:
In all fairness, Mr. Paladino is not the only landlord in Omaha who has buildings in subpar conditions.
Here are a few other companies we’ve seen:
This video was submitted to Restoring Dignity in December 2018 by a tenant who has been fighting the Lund Company for the past two years to fix the leaking ceilings. Watch this full 1 minute video to see the extent of the water damage.
These pictures were all taken in August and September 2018 at Yale Park. While pictures are worth a thousand words, sometimes what is not seen can be just as powerful. Like gas leaks. 75 of them.
Why share these pictures? Why call out landlords? Because for far too long the practice of slum lording has dominated the low-income rental market in Omaha. It might be embarrassing for landlords to see these pictures being brought into the light. But you know what’s worse? That there are human beings, people like you and me, people with children, the elderly, the vulnerable, who are actually LIVING in conditions like this. And this isn’t happening in some foreign country or some strange and distant land. This is happening right here in Omaha. Your Omaha. My Omaha. Our city. We don’t know about you, but Restoring Dignity is sick and tired of tolerating the behavior of landlords that practice slumlording. And we’re not the only ones. At yesterday’s city council meeting, so many people showed up from so many different backgrounds and experiences to testify against the inhumane conditions and practices they have been subjected to here in Omaha.
We who engage in nonviolent direct action are not the creators of tension. We merely bring to the surface the hidden tension that is already alive. We bring it out in the open, where it can be seen and dealt with.
-Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Since Restoring Dignity started in 2012, our aim was to provide refugee families with items they needed in their homes. Little did we know that we would stumble upon substandard housing conditions over and over and over again. For years we didn’t know what to do, other than call landlords and hope that the issues were fixed. The majority of the time, this approach simply did not work. This summer, Yale Park was the tipping point of what has now become the housing rights movement of Omaha. Tenants, concerned citizens, and organizations across Omaha are uniting together and are saying “ENOUGH IS ENOUGH.” There has to come a point when a society stands up to fight against injustice. In 2019, this injustice is substandard housing conditions perpetuated by slum landlords who have no one keeping them accountable. Restaurants have mandatory inspections, hospitals have mandatory inspections, and yet in 2019, in the city of Omaha, we do not have ANY required inspections for ANY rental units. Council Bluffs has mandatory rental inspections, La Vista has mandatory rental inspections, Kansas City has mandatory rental inspections, Minneapolis has mandatory rental inspections. Why not Omaha?
We entrust our LIVES and the lives of our FAMILIES to our landlords, and yet none of our rental units are inspected to make sure that they are safe and up to code! We just hope that whoever we rent from knows what they are doing and practices ethically. To be fair, there are many very good landlords out there. This post is not about them. This post is about the landlords who are practicing slumlording.
The pictures that were shown above represent only the TIP of the iceberg of the housing conditions that many of our fellow Omahans live in. This is just a fraction of a fraction of a percent of what is happening inside the walls of apartment buildings in OUR city. The time has come for fellow Omahans to stand up and demand that the practices of slum lording be put to an end now and for all. The best way to ensure that slum lords cannot keep renting out substandard units is to enforce mandatory rental inspections.
Omaha’s City Council is currently discussing this very issue and will be bringing their recommendations to the Mayor in the next several weeks. After hearing from city council members yesterday, they do take into account what their constituents are saying. They do read their emails from you and listen to phone calls from you.
There are several ways to get involved immediately:
- If you are a TENANT who has rented from a slumlord, please send your story (and pictures, if possible) to our email. We will be sharing stories and pictures with city council members throughout the next few weeks. Our email is: email@example.com or you can message us through Facebook via our page or our group by searching: Restoring Dignity Omaha.
- If you are a CONCERNED CITIZEN, please email or call your city councilperson and let them know that you are concerned about substandard housing conditions in Omaha. Please let them know that you SUPPORT mandatory rental inspections.
- If you are a Restoring Dignity VOLUNTEER who has SEEN the conditions of sub standard rental units, please share your story of what you have seen with either us or with your city councilperson.
- If you would like to be notified when major meetings will be occurring in regards to the substandard housing crisis in Omaha, please email us and let us know. We’ll put you on a special mailing list: firstname.lastname@example.org
- If you are an organization, workplace or church who would like to PUBLICLY support safe housing and mandatory rental inspections, please let us know!
- If you are a member of our Omaha government, I will leave you with this quotation from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr:
Cowardice asks the question, ‘Is it safe?’ Expediency asks the question, ‘Is it politic?’ Vanity asks the question, ‘Is it popular?’ But, conscience asks the question, ‘Is it right?’ And there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular but one must take it because one’s conscience tells one that it is right.
Here is contact information for all Omaha city council members:
Contact your city council member and tell them that you are concerned about substandard housing in Omaha. Tell them you SUPPORT mandatory rental inspections!
District 1: Pete Festersen Phone: 402-444-5527 email: Pete.Festersen@cityofomaha.org
District 2: Ben Gray Phone: 402-444-5524 email: Ben.Gray@cityofomaha.org
District 3: Chris Jerram Phone: 402-444-5525 email: Chris.Jerram@cityofomaha.org
District 4: Vinny Palermo Phone: 402-444-5522 email: Vinny.Palermo@cityofomaha.org
District 5: Rich Pahls Phone: 402-444-5528 email: Rich.Pahls@cityofomaha.org
District 6: Brinker Harding Phone: 402-444-5523 email: Brinker.Harding@cityofomaha.org
District 7: Aimee Melton Phone: 402-444-5526 email: Aimee.Melton@cityofomaha.org