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City of Omaha - Nebraska

City of Omaha Planning Department
Housing and Community Development DivisionOmaha, Nebraska

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  About HCD

Housing and Community Development's (HCD) mission is Neighborhood Revitalization, which is defined as the renewing and sustaining of Omaha's neighborhoods. Activities integral to neighborhood revitalization and thus, to HCD's mission are:

  • Demolition of unsafe structures
  • Acquisition of properties
  • Construction of new homeowner and rental housing
  • Rehabilitation of existing homeowner and rental housing
  • Removal of lead-based paint hazards
  • Barrier removal for special needs populations
  • Emergency and handyman repairs
  • Development and rehabilitation of public facilities
  • Streetscape improvements
  • Construction of Commercial/industrial properties
  • Housing education and counseling
  • Rental assistance for homeless and near homeless households
  • Operations support for homeless emergency shelters

  HCD History

hudimgThe Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program was enacted as a part of the Housing and Community Development Act of 1974. Prior to 1974, there were a number of federal programs that addressed community development concerns, programs, for example that focused on Open Space, Urban Renewal, Neighborhood Development, and Historic Preservation. The CDBG program consolidated these various programs, and others, into a single program. Its purpose was (and is) to provide funding for the development of viable urban communities, communities that provide the following (principally for persons of low and moderate income): decent housing, a suitable living environment, and expanded economic opportunities. In 1975, the Omaha City Council assumed administrative responsibility for the City of Omaha’s CDBG program. Shortly thereafter, the City’s newly formed Community Development Department created a number of “redevelopment plans” for the purpose of revitalizing older areas of Omaha. In 1980, the Community Development Department developed the initial set of programs that to this day remain a part of the overall CDBG program: the Target Area Program, for example, with its focus on both homeowner and investor housing rehabilitation; the Urban Homestead program involving the acquisition, rehab, and resale of existing housing; and the Homebuyer program, a blended mortgage program permitting eligible homebuyers the opportunity to purchase homes in targeted neighborhoods at an affordable rate.

By 1982, the Community Development Department was renamed the Housing and Community Development Division (HCD) and made a part of the City Planning Department. In the years that followed, the City Planning Department, aided by the experience of HCD staff, implemented many of the initiatives that have resulted in the downtown we have today: the Howard Hotel, the Orpheum Tower, Downtown housing, South 24th Street, and so on. Over the course of its existence, the Community Development Department/HCD has benefited from a series of exceptional leaders. Jim Kelly and Jim Swick led the department in its very early days. Charlie Hill became HCD’s director in 1980, followed by Marty Shukert, Robert C. Peters, Mike Saklar, and James R. Thele. Each of these directors brought their unique focus and skillset to HCD while at the same time preserving and, as possible, extending the focus of previous directors. In this way, HCD has continued to evolve, this despite the fact that CDBG funding is nearly half of what it was in the mid-90s, and in buying power—with annual award amounts corrected for inflation—less than the City’s initial (1975) CDBG award. To compensate for this drop in funding, HCD has sought funding from the Nebraska Department of Economic Development (for new housing development and housing rehabilitation, primarily), and from the US Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Environmental Protection Agency (for the removal of toxic levels of lead from contaminated housing and soil).

  HCD's Core Mission

Today, HCD continues with its core mission: neighborhood revitalization. This necessarily means that HCD is involved with the following activities: property acquisition; demolition of unsafe structures; construction of new homeowner and rental housing; rehabilitation of existing homeowner and rental housing; removal of lead-based paint hazards; barrier removal for special needs populations; emergency and handyman repairs; development and rehabilitation of public facilities; streetscape improvements; construction of commercial/industrial properties; housing education and counseling; rental assistance for homeless and near homeless households; and operational support for homeless emergency shelters.

One of the assumptions fundamental to HCD’s focus on neighborhoods is the notion that neighborhoods play a part in making us who we are. The events that occur in the neighborhood, the give and take of neighbors, the life of families, the care of property, etc., all influence the sense of what is possible for those who live there. The assumption is that a person’s outlook and sense of identity are affected by the neighborhood they grew up in, by the values and everyday life they witness.

For that reason, HCD attempts to serve the following values: the safety of neighborhoods, the building and maintenance of healthy homes (dry, contaminant-free, energy-efficient, etc.), environmental stewardship (from gardening to the removal of toxic environmental substances), the promotion of effective neighborhood leadership and strong neighborhood associations. In addition, HCD partners with a number of organizations in order to increase the likelihood that additional values are emphasized: education, access to health care, youth employment, counseling, financial management education, etc., values and supports that help a neighborhood serve the potential of its residents. To put it another way, and to the extent possible, HCD embraces a holistic approach to neighborhood revitalization.