Lobby Day highlights Nebraska’s housing affordability crisis

More than 100 Nebraskans gathered at the Nebraska State Capitol on Wednesday to shine a light on the state’s affordable housing crisis and encourage lawmakers to take urgent, definitive action.
“Housing is that rare issue that impacts every one of our districts,” said State Sen. Tony Vargas of Omaha, who has introduced a pair of bills in the current legislative session to appropriate funds for both rural and urban housing initiatives. “The time for action is now.”
Describing the current housing situation in Nebraska as “a perfect storm,” Vargas said increases in building costs and rising interest rates are widening the gap between what it costs to build and what tenants can afford to pay. Meanwhile, the expiration of COVID-era emergency rental and food programs have made it harder for families to afford their essential needs – including housing, he said.
“Families who pay more than 30 percent of their income on housing are left with less for other necessities like health care, food, and education and are unable to save for emergencies, contribute to the economy, and build personal wealth,” Vargas said. “This is why business, nonprofits and government have been working together to advocate for policy changes and investments in housing as the backbone of a prosperous and equitable future.
Vargas was joined by State Sen. Wendy DeBoer at the news conference, which was part of Housing Affordability & Justice Lobby Day at the Capitol. A statewide coalition of housing rights advocates and organizations organized the second-annual event. 
Lobby Day provides a platform for participants to learn, engage, and advocate for positive change in Nebraska’s housing landscape. Following the news conference, advocates observed legislative debate in the Norris Chamber gallery and engaged with state senators.
Several housing bills introduced this session ensure legal protections and access to safe, affordable housing to address housing instability in Nebraska, and reflect the diversity of actions needed to help Nebraskans experiencing housing cost burdens, eviction, and homelessness.