A new group plans to study housing conditions in Lincoln County, but critics do not seem to be much impressed.The study group – Lincoln County Housing Coalition – is in the fledgling stage, organizer Dianne Kolkman recently told the North Platte Telegraph.
Kolkman said the group does not have a board yet, but has met informally ever since a housing study was done in 2010.
John Winchell, who has pressed for better housing standards for several months, was disappointed to see “more of the same.”
“The Lincoln County Housing Coalition is hardly new and was hardly successful the first time when we bought a housing study in August of 2010,” Winchell said. “That (study was) 159 pages at an unknown expense to tell us what we already knew and that we did very little with.”
That housing study showed that 41 percent of homes in North Platte are more than 50-years-old and 30 percent are more than 60-years-old.
In July, Nancy Striebel, the director of the Lincoln County Community Development Corporation, asked the council to add some teeth to existing city housing standards and fill some gaps in city regulations. She said the major concern is the health and safety of those who live in substandard homes.
She said the city has an ordinance that provides for a city health inspector, but a health inspector has never been appointed.
Streibel said that city standards for mobile homes, mobile home parks and rental houses are not stout enough. She said there are virtually no standards in place for mobile homes and some standards need to be improved that are in place for duplexes and apartments.
Winchell said there are no enforceable housing standards in North Platte. He said Striebel’s presentation again made the problem public, but brought no action beyond hand wringing "again."
Winchell said many people volunteer time and material to make emergency repairs to housing, and the state of some of these places is unimaginable, with no sewer, no hot water, no heat and wind blowing through the building.
The houses can be inhabited by young children and elderly alike. Trash blocks access to emergency services; there are holes in roofs and electrical wiring is antiquated.
Winchell said landlords in North Platte are for the most part good property owners, but there are many who are not, and sometimes renters have no recourse.
“Many property owners are protected by incorporation or real estate companies who ‘manage’ their investments, so finding who owns the property can be a problem,” Winchell said.
Winchell wants all rentals or commercial structures to be inspected before they are rented or leased.
If a residence does not meet minimum codes for habitation, it should be denied city services until it is improved.
“I believe we must do better,” Winchell said. “Holiday food baskets last a few days. Where you live lasts a lot longer.”