Aliesha Reed, Kaylee Penry, Allisya Quezada-H., David Kozimor, Hannah Burright, and Isabella Lopez

Introduction:

Access to housing and rentals is a struggle for lower income people across the United States. This problem is especially prominent in the Omaha area. This study analyzes affordable housing programs and services available to the lower-income individuals/families within the Omaha metro, including the Heartland Family Services, Omaha Housing Authority, Strattford Square Apartments, Seventy Five North website, Habitat for Humanity of Omaha, Gesu Housing, Omaha 100, Douglas County housing website, Omaha demographics from the United States Census Bureau and the Nebraska Legislative Research Office, and maps of the housing stock in Omaha. Information from these sources will show the residential segregation and lack of access to housing for these low-income families in Omaha. 

Methodology

The data was gathered through individual and group research. This study includes research from scholarly journal articles and data gathered from the Omaha area. Demographics were taken from the United States Census Bureau and the Nebraska Legislative Research Office to provide a picture of the Omaha population, its ethnic diversity, distribution of income, housing wealth, education, and further details throughout the districts that comprise the Omaha metropolis. This study also uses information taken from websites like the Omaha Housing Authority to show the requirements to qualify for and sustain affordable housing in the Omaha area. The study then transferred the data into coding tables to highlight the different themes that became apparent throughout the research process. This study recognizes and is organized around different themes and topics discussed in detail from the findings. Those topics are: what is affordable housing, different programs available, landlord responsibilities, tenant requirements, low-income minorities, demographics, and the connections between the many facets of affordable housing.

Findings:

What is Affordable Housing: 

Affordable housing can be defined in a few different ways. Take into consideration people’s age, minorities, immigrants, different education levels, income, unemployment, housing prices, and poverty when trying to find housing. According to Nguyen (2005) housing that is affordable can be defined as not requiring more than 30% of the resident’s annual income (Nguyen, 2005). All of these things have an impact on a person when trying to find a place to live. Another factor is that a person’s mental health can be a problem when someone is trying to find a place to live. Section 8 housing, ran by the Omaha Housing Authority (OHA), is a government program that assists very low-income families, the elderly, and disabled to afford clean and safe housing. Heartland Family Services is an organization that supports the study and research data we found. They are funded through the funding from Region 6 Behavioral Healthcare and do business with the Federal Fair Housing Law. This funding allows them to provide housing for individuals who are struggling and have no more options. Another program that offers affordable housing is Seventy Five North. Seventy Five North is a non-profit organization dedicated to providing affordable housing in Omaha for all levels income. They have affordable homes available for purchase and rentals that are split between the middle and lower class to ensure availability. Gesu Housing and Habitat for Humanity of Omaha are both nonprofit affordable housing developers that work with low income families become first-time home buyers. They focus within blighted neighborhoods to provide accessibility to affordable housing for working families, improvement community, and neighborhood value. Omaha 100 is a consortium that works with the city of Omaha improve neighborhoods and enable first-time home buyers with financial support. More information about these organizations will be discussed later in this study.

Analysis:

In the article, US Housing Insecurity and the Health of Very Young Children it stands out that these poor housing conditions affect everyone involved, including the children. Getting access to any type of housing is difficult, especially with all the insecurity of it all. This study found that Omaha needs to offer more programs like Heartland Family Services to ensure people have a place to stay. We want people to be able to find affordable housing for a long period of time so they can create and build a life that they want to. In our study, there was a quote that stood out, “Multiple moves in childhood can have lifelong impact, as evidenced by higher rates of adverse childhood events, low global health ratings in adulthood, and increased mental health and behavior concerns lasting through adolescence and into adulthood” (Cutts, 1508). Hopefully by providing more services like Heartland will help provide better quality of lives in these children so they can learn to be successful in their future. Having a good steady home to live in really positively impacts children. By living in a stable place and safe environment, it can decrease their chance of getting sick, decrease their chance of any mental health issues that could arise, and also help their overall health in general. It can help them become successful as well. This study discovered the importance that stable housing has on improving livelihood. Affordable housing is integral to help parent help themselves and get them back on the right track to become on a routine again. Stable housing and routine is healthy for families and for the people they are around.

In the next study of Housing Quality, Housing Instability, and Maternal Mental Health involves information relating to Heartland Family Service. In the study, it talked a lot about how housing quality and instability can be related to depression, anxiety, and other social factors in our environment. At Heartland, they try and work with that side of things as well as providing housing. They want to help with your problems and you overall and that is why they make mental health a big aspect at Heartland. One quote that relates to this study is, “Episodes of homelessness have also been associated with poor mental and physical health. Physical and mental health problems can be an antecedent to homelessness as they can interfere with one’s ability to work, as well as deplete economic resources” (Suglia, 1106). How can you expect a person with a severe mental health issue to do all the things a “normal” person is able to do? Some people cannot work 40 plus hours every week, watch their kids, keep up with the cleaning at home, and all the additional necessary activities that are involved along with having a mental health condition. It is like asking the impossible from someone. That is why there are different affordable housing options available; to help with those other daily tasks that have to be done. They tell most people in the program that they should not work and have their main priority on getting better.

In the article “Health and Housing: Altruistic Medicalization of America’s Affordability Crisis”, the topic of health correlations make their way into the argument. It is mentioned that people worry more about the cost of housing and put other things on the back burner to make sure they are able to keep their house. This can have negative effects on the health of not only the parents but the kids as well. They end up not being able to pay for the food that they need and the health care necessary to be able to maintain a healthy life. If families cannot afford health insurance, they resort to going to the emergency room and have to deal with those expenses which put them further away from being able to to keep the house they are in. When it comes to relating to affordable housing, this contributes a lot because of the connections it makes to not being able to afford proper housing and its long term effects on a person, whether a child or adult. Housing instability affects not only the parents but the children as well. The Omaha research and the article research ties together because it shows how something needs to be done and somewhat is being done to help people find housing and to help the mental and physical health.

Different Programs: 

The programs, services, and developers mentioned in this study do not make up an exhaustive list of what can be considered being directly involved with affordable housing in Omaha. Instead, those programs, services, and developers included are described in summary to provide an idea of the needs for affordable housing and what services are being provided closely surrounding the topic of affordable housing in Omaha.

Heartland Family Services program offers many different types of things to benefit the living of individuals in need of housing. Their program’s mission is to “strengthen individuals and families in our community through education, counseling, and support services”. These services include; Child and Family Wellbeing, Counseling and Prevention, Housing, Safety, and Financial Stability. They have 24 units where they house people in. Usually, they put at least two families in one unit. It can be crowded sharing a place to live with another family. In other units it can just be individual families.

Heartland Family Services also offer apartment renting on the property. This is for people who have completed the program and now are trying to find a place of their own. It is more of a starter place to help them manage all their bills and get back to how they were living before they were struggling. They have 16 units for this area, so not as many as the actual in house program. Living in these units gives you more of the freedom you want just as a regular apartment would. They charge rent based on your income too and how many children you have. They take into consideration a lot of other things they know you have to pay for to make it easier on the people living there. 

The Douglas County Housing Authority is a low income housing group that offers a few different programs to allow people who qualify for low income housing. They have housing groups in a few different places around Douglas County as far west as Gretna and Valley. The Gretna and Valley housing programs are what the housing authority call the CROWN program, which is also their most promoted program. This program is a rent-to-own program which allows for low income families to first start off with renting the home for a low price to help build up their income and credit to eventually own the home and make mortgage payments on it instead of just renting a place for the rest of the time they are in the poverty level.

Gesu Housing is a nonprofit affordable housing developer that, since 2002, has built 52 affordable homes in what is considered the Girls Inc./Clifton Hills South neighborhood of North Omaha. Building these homes for first-time homebuyers is how Gesu Housing engages poverty and neighborhood decline. The area they focus within is considered by them to be economically challenged. Gesu Housing aims to transform a blighted neighborhood into a stable neighborhood repopulated with working families by providing selected first-time homebuyers with a $68,000 first mortgage. Selected first-time homebuyers must fall at or below 80% of Median Family Income as well as meet other requirements for homeownership. Gesu Housing works with partners like Holy Name Housing, Omaha 100, and Family Housing Advisory Services. Gesu Housing has been able to take advantage of the Nebraska Affordable Housing Trust Fund as well as HOME funds.

Habitat for Humanity of Omaha is a nonprofit affordable housing developer that helps families become first-time homebuyers. Habitat for Humanity of Omaha builds affordable homes, is involved in home repair, demolition, and neighborhood revitalization. Affordable homes are sold to selected family partners through an affordable loan provided by Habitat for Humanity of Omaha. Applicants must fall within a monthly gross income range as well as meeting other requirements to be considered. Selected family partners receive homeowner education through workshops provided by Habitat for Humanity of Omaha. In addition, the selected family partner is required to volunteer a set number of hours assisting Habitat for Humanity of Omaha with construction, office work, or assistance at Habitat ReStores.

Omaha 100 works with Omaha, financial institutions, and nonprofit affordable housing developers to revitalize targeted communities and increase homeownership rates. They are able to provide affordable mortgage financing options to first-time homebuyers. In partnership with housing counseling services the applicants are provided access to homebuyer and financial education. Grant underwriting, down payment, and closing cost assistance is also provided. Some, but not all, of the requirements that Omaha 100 looks at when considering applicants include family situation, residence, employment, gross monthly income, and withholdings.

The most recent addition was Ernie Chambers Court, consisting of 70 rehabilitated units in historical landmark structures around the North Omaha area. Rent for a one bedroom apartment in one of these new additions is $350.00 a month and the applicant would have to make at least $11,655.00 and not exceed $34,320.00 a year. 

Analysis:

According to Wind, Lersch, and Dewilde (2017) State subsidies appear to have an influence on reducing inequality of housing wealth among the occupational classes. Also, there is also less housing wealth inequality among existing tenants when public rental becomes privatized. Finally, there is less housing wealth inequality when housing is provisioned in a system based on family (Wind, Lersch, and Dewilde, 2017). The programs and services already implemented in Omaha for affordable housing include subsidizing, privatizing, and some place priority on family needs. It would appear that the endeavors within affordable housing in Omaha are poised towards possibly reducing housing wealth inequality.

The research shows that HUD administers several different housing programs in which the government subsidizes the rent cost for low-income individuals and families who meet specific requirements. Applicants must earn income below the “income limit” set by HUD’s regulations, which varies depending on what state someone is in. The research found that “HUD refers to public housing and multifamily assisted (or privately owned) housing as project based because the recipients use of the subsidy is limited to specific properties” (Blackmond Larnell and Williams, 2019). The Research also shows that Public housing involves the government’s ownership and management of subsidized housing. The multifamily housing programs consist of privately-owned housing with landlords directly receiving subsidies from the government.

The research found that the decreased supply of affordable housing resulting from slum clearance and residential segregation left blacks with an unmet demand for housing as well as exceptionally higher housing cost. These government programs were placed in predominantly black communities and mostly low income. Research analysis found that in the United States the concentration of low-income housing is predominantly black spaces, Latinos and Asians faced limited access to the programs. Racialization of these groups have shaped negative experiences with social services, including subsidized low-income housing. Another analysis that was found in previous research is low income housing projects have a vital role in developing countries because they serve a large sector of society.

Violations/ Landlord Responsibilities:

There are many rules and regulations for both landlords and tenants to uphold in affordable housing units. Getting into affordable housing is hard enough, but staying there is just as hard. Tenants often have screenings for drugs, inspections of their units, and other invasions of privacy to ensure that they are abiding by the rules. If the tenants fail to follow the rules, they will often get kicked out and evicted, leaving them without a home. For example, this study found that before an applicant is placed in an affordable apartment complex like Strattford Square there are additional screening requirements. The resident screening and rejection criteria applies to all persons listed as the head of household who is expected to reside in the unit. Some reasons that an applicant might be refused for occupancy is if an applicant currently has an open criminal case against them, if any household member has been evicted in the last three  years from federally assisted housing for drug-related criminal activity, and if an applicant refuses to sign the House Rules as established by Management. When all requirements are met then an applicant is accepted into the apartments. All applicants are placed on a waiting list in chronological order. This study has found that affordable housing programs around Omaha have strict rules and regulations like these. 

According to the Heartland Family Services website, the program can kick you out of the program at any time without giving a reason. The service does not exercise this often because they try to work with people to keep them on the right track, but they will evict a tenant if they feel that they want or need to.  This can be damaging to people living in affordable housing, because they are being closely monitored and left feeling like at any moment they can be left without a home. 

Landlords have to hold up their end of the bargain too. Landlords have responsibilities to keep the units up to code because of the yearly inspections that take place. Many of the units for public housing score poorly, the lowest in Nebraska in 2014 was a 50 out of 100, while goals set for 2017 were 85. Some of the most common reasons for inspections to fail are utilities (electric, water, and gas) not being turned on, smoke detectors not working or not in the right location, deteriorating paint, water damage, and mold. Some solutions to these problems have been set, for example: paying the utility company on time, installing smoke detectors on every level and by bedrooms, disinfect and repair mold damage, and more. Another responsibility for landlords required by HUD is EIV Existing Tenant Search. All applicants must disclose if they are currently receiving HUD housing assistance. The Enterprise Income Verification System (EIV) is used to determine if the applicant is currently receiving HUD assistance prior to the interview. The landlord will not assist applicants who attempt to receive HUD assistance in two separate residences. Another of the landlords responsibility required by HUD is Home visits. Visits to the applicant’s current residence will be made to assess housekeeping habits. Living/housekeeping habits that may adversely affect the health, safety, or welfare of other tenants are grounds for failing a home visit. Evidence of an unauthorized occupant, evidence of criminal activity, evidence of destruction of property, and general care of appliances, carpet, fixtures, windows, doors, cabinets, and furniture, are all reasons an applicant can fail a home visit.  It is important for landlords to keep units up to code because if they fail to, people will either be living in substandard conditions or the unit will get shut down altogether, leaving families without a home.

Analysis:

It is hard enough for people with a low socioeconomic status to obtain affordable housing with long waitlists and strict application criteria, but keeping that housing is just as hard. The article “New Sociology of Housing” by Isaac William Martin outlines the struggles of people living in affordable, low-income housing with eviction. In the article, Martin says “Eviction is more than just a symptom of poverty. It is a cause: ‘‘Losing a home sends families to shelters, abandoned houses, and the street. It invites depression and illness, compels families to move into degrading housing in dangerous neighborhoods, uproots communities, and harms children’’ (Martin, 2017). Public housing has strict guidelines to follow in order to avoid getting evicted, leaving families without homes. A solution to this problem may be to not make these guidelines less strict, but to start programs for those families that are struggling to follow these guidelines in order for them to redeem themselves and get a second chance rather than being left homeless. 

Having strict guidelines and rules that residents have to abide by in order to avoid eviction is a problem. Most people from a low income background have a hard time following these rules and regulations because many have addiction problems, financial problems, or do not have the tools to keep up with what landlords are asking of them. It is not fair to ask so much of a tenant with a low socioeconomic background without trying to help them or guide them in the right direction, but instead chastising them and kicking them out of what may be the only stability in their life, their home. Hopefully in the future, requirements for tenants with affordable housing will be less strict in order to help more families obtain and stay in housing that they can afford.

Programs to help people get affordable housing, like Section 8 housing, are important to people who need it the most, and there should be more programs that are available to people of low-income status that are needing a place to call home. Unfortunately, the trend lately has been the opposite. Gentrification, renovating a housing district to appeal to middle and upper class tastes, has made it even more difficult for lower-class individuals to find affordable housing. Even when developments for public housing are coming to fruition, people with a higher socioeconomic status will try to shut it down. According to the same article by Martin, “homeowners in Winnetka, Illinois, organized for a decade to block the construction of affordable rental housing in their suburban community and thereby to keep renters out of the local polity altogether” (Martin, 2017). Most people that live in thriving middle and upper class neighborhoods do not want to take on a lower-class affordable housing unit in their neighborhood. There is a lot of stereotypes and fears that will prevent these people from wanting an affordable housing development in their are, and these unfortunately are holding the lower-class from having more access to housing in nicer, safer neighborhoods. This also brings forward the problems with trying to establish mixed-income neighborhoods. Residential segregation is as evident in the United States now as ever, and establishing mixed-income neighborhoods correctly can help decrease that growing problem. If more programs are developed, or already existing programs join forces, to help establish well planned and executed mixed-income neighborhoods to provide a safe and nice environment for those of all incomes, the ever so present problem of residential segregation can be on the way to being solved and access to quality affordable housing can be widened. 

Requirements:

Heartland Family Service also has rules and requirements that they have to follow while staying there. For example, it is a non smoking property. None of the residents or workers are allowed to smoke on the property. Also, there are certain groups and meetings you have to attend in order to stay in the program there. 

Strattford Square is a low-income apartment that meets the requirements of HUD.  To be considered for occupancy the Head of Household must be eighteen years or older and competent to complete a leasing agreement at the time the application is made. Assistance can only be provided for applicants and their household members if they are either United States Citizens, Nationals or have eligible immigration status. At which time applicants claiming to be of such status must sign a declaration to certify as such status. Having a social security number is another requirement. Proof of a social security number is required to be provided for all members of an applicant household at the time of the interview. The income limits are updated annually by HUD and the IRS. In order for a household to qualify for low-income apartments the family’s gross annual income must not exceed the income limit for the property by 60%.

Once the project eligibility requirements and income eligibility are met the third step is the accepting of applications. There are three ends to the application process; applicant are admitted to a unit, applicants are rejected because they do not meet all of the HUD eligibility criteria, or applicants remain on the waiting list until an appropriate size unit becomes available.

The OHA receives funding for the Housing Choice Voucher Program (HCV) from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). To qualify, “participants must earn no more than 50% of the area median income.  Eligible families generally are required to pay 30% of their adjusted income towards gross rent (owner rent and the amount of the utility allowance for tenant-paid utilities that are not included in the rent to the owner).” People wanting to utilize the program must also qualify as a citizen or be eligible for immigrant status, provide social security information, and consent to use and collection of family documents and information.

This application process takes anywhere from two to four months to complete, and there is an upward mobility preference. This upward mobility preference means that one adult in the family has to be employed and work at least 32 hours in the past six months, must be an active participant in an educational or training program, or has a family head that is over 62 years old or has disabilities.

The OHA gives out around 4,300 vouchers, so there is a long wait list for this program, and the estimated wait for an applicant to be considered is anywhere from six to eight months.

Low-Income Minorities:

Minorities make up the majority of the low-income population and those living in poor neighborhoods. Omaha, like any other city, has a population of people that are in need of low income housing and programs in relation to the issue. Through various community hearings and petitions, low-income minority neighborhoods in the North were seemingly being heard, yet nothing was being done to make way for solving these problems. Upon further neglect by the city and the decline of these poor neighborhoods, the community decided to take matters into their own hands to better their outlook on a positive community environment. Thus, the non-profit organization Seventy Five North was created to reflect the ideals of the community that sought change. The organization states that their ‘purpose’ is “to facilitate the revitalization of a healthy, sustainable, mixed-income community in North Omaha’s Highlander neighborhood (Seventy Five North, 2011).” Ultimately, this organization  wanted to take their neighborhood and transform it into a thriving a community where all levels of family could live. This concept would be sure to include middle income and low income individuals and families within the neighborhood. They wanted to make sure that all the levels of income had access to quality housing and that everyone had access to the rental units, with specific units to be “split” between the lower and middle class (Seventy Five North, 2011). Anyone at any level of income are able to purchase homes as well.

According to Balakrishnan and Hou (1999) segregation comes with negative consequences for minorities. First, by implementing segregated institutions and organizations which are inherently unequal. This is seen as restricting access to things like health care and education. Second, the segregated communities bring about a higher awareness of ethnic and racial differences. Majority groups may feel right in their prejudices. While segregation keeps ethnic identity, societal assimilation is reduced. Isolated segregation also encourages deviance (Balakrishnan and Hou, 1999).

One of the reasons for the decline of the neighborhoods in the north were due to the lack of opportunities available to the community, so it was important to implement programs to not only increase opportunities for the adults, but for the children as well. The organization signed a contract with the Omaha Public School District in 2015 to devise a program to better the education of the lower performing schools essentially to increase the likely success for the students and the schools themselves. Following the organization, it almost has a sense that it is centering its energy on and encourages community engagement. With that importance of community engagement in mind, Seventy Five North created a recreational building dedicated to educating and bringing the community together. Inside the building would be an array of activities available to all, provided by all the partnerships with metro companies that the organization paired up with.

All that the organization is involved has helped better the city of Omaha. There still is a need for more non-profit organizations just like Seventy Five North all over the city, but this is a great start for revitalizing land that would otherwise perish if nothing had been done. As the organization continues to improve the Highlander neighborhood, the better the city of Omaha will be. The hope is that other organizations will form and follow Seventy Five North’s example in revitalizing lower-income neighborhoods.

Analysis:

In the peer reviewed journal Fair Housing Issues: A Call for Mandated Housing Integration, author April Johnson responds to the issue on fair housing within the lower class/minority persons. In the article, she introduces the idea of the American dream, however, states that this dream is not something that everyone can achieve. When thinking of the American Dream, part of it is owning a place to live. This dream is seemingly unrealistic for minorities alike. Minorities make up a good portion of those who live in high poverty neighborhoods. And according to Johnson’s research, America has the most segregated neighborhoods in the world. The Fair Housing Act of 1968, made it unlawful to discriminate who gets to purchase homes and where they purchase homes, based on their skin color. Even with the new policy, it was still seemingly difficult for African Americans to purchase homes. The prices of housing increased, while the income for theses families remained the same or they decreased. However, Johnson believed that income is not the cause of residential segregation, but that it was the past policies that the government has failed to “rectify.” 

As this relates to the study, it’s important to understand fair housing and the issues that people of the lower class face, and more specifically in this article, African Americans. Understanding some of the leading causes that past policy implications have made on our country will help us paint a picture of the issues we are facing with housing in Omaha. Upon further research of programs to help reverse the cycle of minorities in low-income areas in Omaha, Seventy Five North is an excellent example. The organization hits on key ideas that would help revitalize this neighborhood to bring success to the community. They focus on community engagement, educational success and a place for all levels of income to obtain quality housing that is otherwise unavailable or hard to get due to lack of funds and resources.

Omaha Metropolis Demographics:

Two separate sources are used for the statistical data of the Omaha and Omaha metropolitan area. The first is the United States Census Bureau’s statistics specific to their definition of what constitutes as Omaha. The second source is the Nebraska Legislative Research Office’s statistics based on state districts. The following table comes from the United States Census Bureau.

Findings:

housing_graphic_01

According to the United States Census Bureau the July 1, 2017 population estimate for Omaha is 466,893. Children under the age of 5 make up 7.3%. Those under the age of 18 make up 25.0%. The senior population age 65 and over make up 12.3%. The Omaha population is 78.2% White, 12.3% Black or African American, and 13.7% Hispanic or Latino. It should be noted that these categories of ethnicities are not exclusive and is mentioned as such from the source. Veterans make up 18.1%. Those who are foreign born make up 10.3%.

Omaha has 182,257 households at a 57.8% owner-occupied housing unit rate. The median value of owner-occupied housing units are $146,500. Median selected monthly owner costs with mortgage are $1,381. Median selected monthly owner costs without mortgage are $567. Median gross rent is $861. Persons per household are 2.48 and language other than English spoken at home is 16.1%.

High school graduates over the age of 25 make up 88.4%. Those over the age of 25 with a Bachelor’s degree or higher make up 35.6%. Those living with a disability under the age of 65 make up 7.9%. Those living without health insurance under the age of 65 make up 12.5%.

The Omaha median household income is $53,789. Per capita income in the past 12 months is $30,222. Those living in poverty make up 15.1%.

This study will now look at the second source. Data pulled from the Nebraska Legislative Research Office does not come from a definition of what constitutes as Omaha. Instead, data is pulled from those districts that clearly make up the Omaha metropolitan area. More specifically, inclusion of this district data includes all of the districts making up Douglas county and approximately half of Sarpy county. The reason for including data for only half of Sarpy county is because of how the district boundaries lie. Including the additional district that makes up the remainder of Sarpy county would also include all of Cass county which, for the purposes of this research project, is not considered a part of the Omaha metropolis. To be clear of what is being defined here as the Omaha metropolis in regards to the data from this second source is the inclusion of districts 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 18, 20, 31, 39, 45, and 49.

housing_graphic_02

housing_graphic_03

According to the United States Census Bureau the July 1, 2017 population estimate for Omaha is 466,893. Children under the age of 5 make up 7.3%. Those under the age of 18 make up 25.0%. The senior population age 65 and over make up 12.3%. The Omaha population is 78.2% White, 12.3% Black or African American, and 13.7% Hispanic or Latino. It should be noted that these categories of ethnicities are not exclusive and is mentioned as such from the source. Veterans make up 18.1%. Those who are foreign born make up 10.3%.

Omaha has 182,257 households at a 57.8% owner-occupied housing unit rate. The median value of owner-occupied housing units are $146,500. Median selected monthly owner costs with mortgage are $1,381. Median selected monthly owner costs without mortgage are $567. Median gross rent is $861. Persons per household are 2.48 and language other than English spoken at home is 16.1%.

High school graduates over the age of 25 make up 88.4%. Those over the age of 25 with a Bachelor’s degree or higher make up 35.6%. Those living with a disability under the age of 65 make up 7.9%. Those living without health insurance under the age of 65 make up 12.5%.

The Omaha median household income is $53,789. Per capita income in the past 12 months is $30,222. Those living in poverty make up 15.1%.

The districts this study is most focused on are districts 7 and 11. They include low income neighborhoods and are where Heartland Family Services, Ernie Chambers Court, Strattford Square Apartments, Gesu Housing, and Habitat for Humanity of Omaha mainly operate within. Those districts can be found in the central right part of the district map. These two districts could be considered the approximate core of the Omaha metropolis. They have been exclusively labeled in the demographic images further below that illustrate a correlation between different conditions attributing these two districts.

The following district maps from the Nebraska Legislative Research Office provide a more detailed look at average residential home value, median household income, percent of families below the poverty line, percent of homes occupied by the owner, and percent that identify as “non-white.” There are correlations that are addressed following the district maps below. These correlations are compared to other journal findings that discuss sociological housing.

housing_graphic_01

The average residential home value map and median household income map show a correlation across the various districts. Specifically districts 7 and 11 both fall into the lowest category of average residential home value of $66,000 to $92,000 and the lowest category of median household income of $25,000 to $34,000.

Analysis:

Notice how the increasing gradient pushing left from districts 7 and 11 for both average residential home value and median household income. This unequal distribution of wealth could be explained by the idea of suburbanization in Omaha. According to Frisbie (1980) a city’s suburbs has more to do with the city’s response to nurturing suburbs than the population at the city’s core. Specifically, suburbs are an extension of a city when technology makes it possible and the city encourages it through support and inclusion. Data reveals for its time that the majority of population movement away from a city’s center is disproportionately white of middle and upper class and of young families. There has been minimal revitalization and gentrification of the city’s center during outward expansion and that the “urban fiscal crisis” of poor care to the city’s center may further influence expansion into its suburbs (Frisbie, 1980).  Again, looking at districts 7 and 11 we see a correlation between percent of families below the poverty line and the percent of residents that identify as “non-white.” Districts 7 and 11 both fall into the highest category of 40.0% to 74.3%. Demographics of the Omaha metropolitan area reveal a higher percentage of minorities at its core while those holding higher income and housing values live outside the core. Again, districts 7 and 11 could be considered the approximate core of the Omaha metropolis. The causes for suburbanization in Omaha can not be well argued by the research uncovered, though a correlation can be observed by looking at these district demographic maps. The topic of suburbanization would be a point of interest for future studies.

The percent of families below the poverty line map and percent of homes occupied by the owner map show another correlation that could be aligned with the idea of suburbanization in Omaha. The Nebraska Legislative Research Office defines the poverty line in alignment with the 2014 federal poverty threshold for a family of four with two children at $23,850. Wind, Lersch, and Dewilde (2017) state that “housing wealth inequality pivots on the state of housing accessibility.” This observation made within that study looked at the housing distribution within a market-based system and one that removes the link between homeownership and income earned through work. Housing wealth is defined by them as “the value of the home subtracting mortgage debt.” According to their study, housing wealth inequality rises within a market-based system and when the link between homeownership and income earned through work is removed there is a reduction in housing wealth inequality (Wind, Lersch, and Dewilde, 2017). Affordable housing programs ease the barrier of entry into becoming a first-time homebuyer within the market-based system in Omaha. The long term effects that the affordable housing programs within Omaha have on housing wealth inequality would be another  point of interest for future studies.

According to Balakrishnan and Hou (1999) even though Canada has a strong approach to ensuring equality in economic, social and other aspects it appears that people still prefer to live among those of the same ethnicity. The occupational mobility Canada pushes does not appear to be influencing a change in residential segregation. In the United States there are federal programs like the 1968 Fair Housing Act and 1974 Housing and Community Development Act that aim to increase housing accessibility and desegregate neighborhoods by introducing affordable housing units in neighborhoods that may be considered of a higher value bracket. The journal makes an observation that those studied in Canada prefer segregation even when provided a choice (Balakrishnan and Hou, 1999). The affordable housing programs within Omaha increase homeownership mobility by empowering first-time home buyers, increase neighborhood value, and even neighborhood revitalization. While the federal Acts place emphasis on desegregation the affordable housing programs within Omaha do not desegregate neighborhoods but instead improve neighborhood value.

Nguyen (2005) takes a look at placement of affordable housing and the effect it has on the value of surrounding neighbors. The factors measured include demographics, structural quality, type of neighborhood where the affordable housing would be integrated, nearby amenities, proximity, and so on. Neighborhood based housing organizations make for better management who can work towards the specific needs of the existing neighborhood. This example has been shown to actually increase nearby property values that may contain abandoned or neglected existing homes. It is regardless of whether or not the type of management is of affordable housing or privately owned. Rehabilitation of existing homes falls into this category in which property values increase. It was observed that the likelihood of decreased housing values due to integration of affordable housing relied mostly on management and quality of affordable housing, neighborhood compatibility, and concentration of affordable housing within an area (Nguyen, 2005). The affordable housing programs within Omaha could be considered neighborhood based housing organizations that have been observed by this study to be a factor in increasing nearby property values within the neighborhoods they service.

Conclusion: 

This study has outlined the residential segregation and lack of access to housing for low-income families in the Omaha area and how that affects the community as a whole. Future studies should focus on ways to integrate lower class housing into middle class housing developments to establish mixed-income neighborhoods, and how that will affect the dynamic of the community. Research like this could help the successful development of mixed-income neighborhoods to lower the rates of residential segregation and improve access to decent and safe housing for low-income families.

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