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Two Lincoln neighborhoods could be declared extremely blighted to increase affordable housing

Updated: May. 25, 2021 at 8:00 PM CDT
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LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) - Two Lincoln neighborhoods could be designated extremely blighted, and while that may sound like a bad thing, city officials and realtors say it’s not.

The neighborhoods are Air Park and Belmont. They could get this designation now to help increase affordable housing, as a 2019 law created a $5,000 tax credit for people who buy homes in extremely blighted areas.

“We’re not talking a tax deduction,” Dan Marvin, head of Lincoln Urban Planning and Development said. “We’re talking about a $5,000 credit for people who buy and live in a home in those areas.”

The Lincoln Planning Commission will decide Wednesday if those neighborhoods meet the qualifications for extreme blight. While there are a number of qualifications, in short, Marvin said a neighborhood has to meet three main criteria. First, it has to be too old to re-develop; second, the area has to have a lower than average socioeconomic status; and third, it has to have previously been declared blighted.

“We don’t like the word blight,” Marvin said. Opportunity zones would be a better way to describe it. But the goals contained in the designation, which are owner occupied housing and creating opportunities for people to become homeowners, are laudable.”

A Lincoln realtor and broker agrees.

“We need incentives for first time home buyers,” Pat Ohmberger with Home Realty said. “In this housing market what we’re seeing when a home needs updating are cash buyers, investors come in and purchasing rental purposes.”

She said neighborhoods like Air Park and Belmont need young families to move in and this tax credit will encourage that.

“Wealth is in your home, it’s the American dream and first time buyers need that opportunity,” Ohmberger said.

While declaring these neighborhoods extremely blighted doesn’t mean the city is going to make improvements, Marvin said improvements will likely happen naturally.

“When a neighborhood has new home owners it’s energized with a lot of activity and there’s an effort to reinvest and refresh the neighborhood,” Marvin said.

The Planning Commission will discuss the issue Wednesday and it will then go to the Lincoln City Council in about a month.

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