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Proposals for Reform in Lincoln

Our nation is facing a severe shortage of affordable housing, and Lincoln is no exception. In fact, housing is unaffordable for 46% of Lincolnites that rent at all income levels. An estimated 21,655 Lincoln households are cost-burdened by their housing. About 85% of extremely low-income families in Lincoln spend more than one-third of their income on rent. Lincoln must address these issues before they become worse, and we urge Lincoln’s leadership to put our city at the forefront of national housing reform.

Reform Proposals

Proposals for Reform in Lincoln

We have identified the following policy changes which, if implemented in Lincoln, would increase the affordable housing stock and/or the resources to increase housing affordability for low-income families. 

Sources: National Low Income Housing Coalition, 2019 Advocates Guide (2019); Estimates from 2012-2016 HUD CHAS data, available from the Office of Policy Development and Research (PD&R) website. Unaffordability is defined as having a cost burden, which means spending more than 30% of income on rent.

Feasibility Study of Inclusionary Housing

  • Inclusionary housing is a significant tool that could be utilized to create additional affordable housing units in Lincoln. Inclusionary zoning provides incentives and benefits to housing developers in exchange for setting aside a set number of housing units in the development as affordable for low-income families. One way to determine how to develop an inclusionary housing policy that works best for Lincoln is to conduct a feasibility study.
  • Feasibility studies look to previous housing developments within the city to develop pro formas and create models that allow for a requirement of affordable units, often in exchange for developmental incentives to ensure that development remains profitable. There are several considerations to make when deciding how to implement an inclusionary housing ordinance and a feasibility study ensures that those decisions are made in a way that maintains the profitability of housing development. A full analysis is important, as inclusionary housing programs have been proven to be effective nationwide at creating affordable units.

Source of Income Anti-Discrimination Protections

  • Rental assistance such as housing vouchers is essential for many Lincolnites to make ends meet. It is one of the biggest tools we have to make housing more affordable for low-paid Lincolnites. Particularly now, as many lost work or have been otherwise affected by the pandemic, we have seen many additional households become eligible for and receive emergency housing assistance.
  • However, renters can be denied housing solely because they would pay rent with a voucher or other form of housing assistance. In Lincoln, voucher success rates from the Lincoln Housing Authority are currently running at about 74 percent. That is, 26 percent of voucher recipients in Lincoln are unsuccessful in finding housing that will accept their voucher. Additionally, renters receiving emergency COVID-19 rental assistance rely on the active cooperation of their landlords, without which renters may be unable to receive rental assistance. We recommend that the City of Lincoln require each landlord to accept all legal sources of income as payment of rent as an additional strategy to ensure that Lincolnites with housing vouchers or other forms of rental assistance are able to use them.

Internal, Periodic Rental Inspections

  • Our current code enforcement mechanism is built on a method of self-policing among landlords that has failed many of our residents. A proactive interior inspection model requiring periodic inspections of the interior of rental units could reward those landlords with units that are up to code and could give more attention to those not in compliance. This approach would more fully ensure that building and safety codes are properly enforced. Regular inspections of rental units help protect the limited number of existing affordable units in Lincoln from deteriorating to the point of condemnation and destruction, while simultaneously protecting lower-paid Lincolnites from life-threatening violations of health and safety codes.
Reform Proposals

Proposals for Reform in Lincoln

Collective Impact Lincoln has identified the following policy changes which, if implemented in Lincoln, would increase the affordable housing stock and/or the resources to increase housing affordability for low-income families. 

Sources: National Low Income Housing Coalition, 2019 Advocates Guide (2019); Estimates from 2012-2016 HUD CHAS data, available from the Office of Policy Development and Research (PD&R) website. Unaffordability is defined as having a cost burden, which means spending more than 30% of income on rent.

Varied Income Access Plan

New housing residential developments above a certain size must either:

  • Set aside a percentage of affordable units to be rented out below market rate to low-income tenants at a rate proportional to their income, or
  • Contribute money to an affordable housing fund that the city uses for the development of affordable housing, or
  • Build affordable units in an off-site development.
  • In return, developers receive incentives such as expedited plan or permit processing, density bonuses, fee waivers, parking reductions, tax abatements or other similar benefits.

Tax Increment Financing (TIF) Reform

TIF is a public subsidy given to developers to help finance redevelopment projects. Because these projects are publicly subsidized, taxpayers should get more than market-rate development in exchange when TIF is used for housing development. TIF can be reformed by ensuring that housing developments subsidized by TIF dollars either:

  • Set aside a percentage of affordable units to be rented out below market rate to low-income tenants at a rate proportional to their income, or
  • Contribute money to an affordable housing fund that the city uses for the development of affordable housing, or
  • Build affordable units in an off-site development. 

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The Eviction Crisis

Since COVID-19’s onset, hundreds of families in Lancaster County have been scheduled to be evicted.

Affordable Housing

21,655 Lincoln households are cost-burdened by their housing.

Turned Away

Our communities are strongest when everyone has access to safe, affordable housing to care for our loved ones and enjoy a quality, healthy life.
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