By Chris Burbach, Omaha.com
The Omaha Municipal Land Bank Board named an interim executive director Monday and took a step toward its first acquisitions of vacant lots and rundown houses. The board voted to approve a contract with Marty Barnhart as interim executive director.
Barnhart is a former director of the Land Reutilization Commission, which resells properties that the county foreclosed on for unpaid taxes. He currently is director of Restored Hope, a nonprofit organization that provides safe housing to women and children who are in abusive situations.
The contract approved Monday would pay Barnhart up to $10,000 a month — $100 an hour for 100 hours of work — to lead the Municipal Land Bank. The contract would be for six months, but could be terminated sooner than that with 30 days’ notice.
The board may hire a permanent executive director sooner than expected, said Jamie Berglund, chairwoman of the Land Bank Board.
She said in the meeting Monday that the board already has a good pool of applicants for the permanent executive director position. She said Barnhart was not interested in the permanent position.
The board also voted Monday to purchase tax certificates on 79 pieces of property in north and South Omaha. Most of them are vacant lots. A few include condemned houses.
The properties’ owners are at least one year delinquent in paying property taxes on the real estate. The county sells tax certificates to investors for the amount of delinquent property taxes, plus interest and fees. The owners have three years to redeem the certificates and keep their properties by paying the delinquent taxes plus 14 percent interest.
If the owners don’t redeem the certificates then the investors may foreclose and take title to the properties.
Berglund submitted the list of 79 properties to the board. She said they all fit at least two of the state law’s criteria, such as being unoccupied; having no current utilities; having vermin, accumulated debris or uncut vegetation; and/or being out of compliance with orders of local housing officials.
It would cost the Land Bank about $70,000 to purchase the tax certificates on the 79 properties.
Most property owners eventually redeem the tax certificates. Douglas County Assessor/Register of Deeds Diane Battiato told the board that she would expect more than two-thirds of the owners of the 79 properties to redeem the certificates.
The Land Bank, created in 2014, could end up owning properties that aren’t thus claimed by their current owners. The Land Bank most likely would transfer the properties to nonprofit organizations that build or rehabilitate housing.
Habitat for Humanity, 75 North Revitalization Corp., Holy Name Housing Corp. and Rebuilding Together Omaha have expressed interest in some of the 79 properties, Berglund told the board. So has the City of Omaha, for potential city-led redevelopment.