A Public Housing Desegregation Success Story - Omaha, NE

In Omaha, nearly 150 public housing families now live in single family homes scattered throughout all seven of Omaha's wards. The 194 unit Logan Fontanelle North project where they might otherwise be living was demolished in 1992.

The Omaha Housing Authority (OHA) buys single family homes on the open market, holds neighborhood public hearings to announce its intentions, fixes up the houses if they need it, and rents them as public housing dwellings to the neat family on its waiting list. Occupancy in these units reflects the 77%, mostly African American, minority population of Omaha public housing. Although earlier hearings were characterized in OHA reports as "spirited", recent ones have been tame affairs, with sparse attendance and lasting only 12 to 15 minutes.

How to explain this quiet acceptance? Listen to Bob Armstrong, the dynamic director of OHA, "I spend more time talking to neighborhood groups than any other director I know. I'll go anywhere, anytime to explain our program, and I explain it very, very thoroughly. I tell them we know our responsibilities as a neighbor and that our families will be good neighbors. I give them my home telephone number in case they have complaints. I also tell them that very few of us have the right to say who can buy the house neat door."

Equal Distribution of Sites in 7 City Wards

Bob Armstrong also credits his policies: equal distribution of scattered site homes in each of the city's seven wards and dispersal (no OHA property closer than three blocks to another) within the ward. He started the demolition/replacement program, not because Logan Fontanelle was in terrible shape, but because he believes that "project living does not lend itself to a positive environment."

Bob Armstrong expects soon to complete the one for one replacement of the 194 units demolished and has applied to tear down the companion development, also 194 units, and replace them with newly constructed scattered site units.

For more information, contact Jim Guest, Omaha Housing Authority, 540 S. 27 Street, Omaha, NE 681051521.

Article obtained from NIMBY Report No. 1