The Housing Rights Movement of Omaha

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.

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The City Council Meeting on January 8th, 2019

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.

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This picture was taken in October 2014. Mold can be seen growing next to a vent. One can only suspect that mold was present within the ductwork itself.
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We served this family back in January of 2014. Their cockroach infestation was deplorable. Cockroaches can be seen hiding behind a glass, while their fecal matter can be observed as the black dots splattered profusely in the cabinet. Everytime this family grabbed a plate, bowl, or cup from the cabinet, they were contaminated with cockroach feces.
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This picture was taken in 2013. Cockroaches can be seen hiding in the corner of the drawer, right next to this young child’s head.
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In August 2014, we went to serve this family and found that they were missing part of the ceiling in their bathroom.  Water damage had been an issue in this bathroom for a long time, as is apparent by the patchwork that can be seen on the walls surrounding the hole.

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.

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This young mother showed us bed bug bites covering the body of her two year old child.
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Bed bug bites on the young mother’s arm.
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Holes in the floor, where mice were coming into this family’s apartment
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The plumbing in this family’s home was so bad that the kitchen sink, bathroom sink, and bathtub would not drain. The family had to live with this and find ways to dispose of water other than the sinks.

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.

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This dead rat was found in the shared laundry room for the building.
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This is the wash machine that was available for tenants to wash their clothes in. The smell that came from the water when the lid was opened was horrific.
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The air filters were missing from the furnaces.
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This is an outdoor light that is in non-functioning.
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Mold on the ceiling of a bedroom.

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.

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Hallways like this have been found in most of the apartment buildings we have visited while meeting with Yale Park families and other refugee families.
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Hallway conditions
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One of the windows of a Yale Park family now living in a Paladino apartment
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This entire building had NO working lights inside. Meaning that at nighttime, people had to navigate to their apartments in total darkness.
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Deteriorating staircase
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This picture was sent to us by a volunteer. The duct tape is covering up a huge hole where mice have been coming in.
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This huge hole was found on the top staircase into an apartment unit.
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This window in a common area laundry room was broken for at least two weeks.

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:

Restoring Dignity Testimony- City Council – 1-8-19

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:

Maxim Realty:

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This is of a picture of the entire wall of a bedroom owned by Maxim Realty. We went to this family’s apartment in August 2018 because we heard they were having issues with air conditioning and needed help getting someone to fix it. The family asked us to look inside their master bedroom and this is what we found. The mold smell was so strong when they opened the door – the smell is undescribable.

Corsica Management:

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When we helped a refugee family in October 2012, the bed bugs were so bad they were crawling up our legs while we stood on the carpet. This is what it looks like when you crush a bed bug that has just been feeding on a human.

Lund Company:

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.

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Water leaked into light fixtures in this apartment managed by the Lund Company.
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Mold on the ceiling from water damage in this apartment managed by the Lund Company.

AB Realty:

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.

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The bathtub plumbing had been leaking into the food pantry and created a horrific amount of black mold. This family also lived without hot water from May 2018 until September 2018. To get hot water, they had to boil it on the stove.

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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@rdomaha.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: email@rdomaha.com
  • 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

 

Sincerely,

Hannah Wyble

Restoring Dignity

email@rdomaha.com

(c) 402-305-8139

6 thoughts on “The Housing Rights Movement of Omaha

  1. Lund. My apartment with them? Leaky ceiling, crumbling plaster. Reported it in April. They said “we’ll start in June” to fix it. Never did. Broke my lease to move out. They immediately sold my lease to a collection agency. No judgment. Nothing. Now I have to scrub my credit, if I can. Lived at the city view for three years. When I moved in it was nice and safe. Completely turned around in three years. Pit bulls. Dope. Shootings. And my one bedroom apartment was $850 a month. Not cheap.

    1. Thank you for telling your story! We need more Omahans like you standing up and speaking the truth about slumlording in our city. It’s real, it exists, and it’s seriously impacting the lives of thousands in this city. Would you be willing to share your story with city council?

  2. I’ll send you pictures of a substandard Landmark unit later today. I was very surprised to not see them on the list already. There’s also a very large block of substandard apartments owned/managed by Paladino on N 44th ST in between California and Cummings. Refugee housing again, the units I’ve ben in are in bad shape as are things like common laundry areas and outside lighting. If you’ve never been in these apts you might try and get a camera on them.

    THANK YOU for all the work you’re doing.

    1. Hi Jeremy,
      Thank you for your comment and we will post any pictures you send us on our website! We are very aware of Landmark, but we do not have any Landmark pictures yet. Mr. Paladino owns both Landmark and Paladino Development Group. Landmark is the company where he manages other landlords properties and Paladino Development Group is the company where he owns the properties. Keep sending us pictures of what you’ve seen and we’ll keep posting them!

      1. Landmark seems to be little better or no more responsive than Paladino is. Our house is just in ill repair, and we stay by choice so it’s no where near as bad as what others are enduring but it still demonstrates the groups lack of commitment to quality housing. Our property owners know exactly what state the house is in, because they were just in the house a few weeks ago, so I feel like Landmark exists to help people who own substandard property to profit.

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