New laws will overhaul Omaha Housing Authority’s eviction practices, ban school lunch debt collections

Nebraska Gov. Jim Pillen signed a bill Wednesday that will reform the Omaha Housing Authority’s eviction processes and reconstitute the public agency’s board. 

The passage of Legislative Bill 840 comes after the Flatwater Free Press published a series of stories that found OHA’s eviction filings hit a six-year high in 2023. 

Beginning in July 2025, OHA tenants facing eviction will have the right to a court-appointed lawyer at the housing authority’s expense. Last year, the agency regularly charged $350 or more in legal fees to tenants in eviction proceedings. 

The new law will also expand OHA’s complaint process for tenants and add two more resident commissioners to the agency’s board.

OHA will have to make much-needed improvements to benefit residents and to prevent unfair treatment, said bill sponsor Sen. Terrell McKinney, a North Omaha Democrat.

OHA CEO Joanie Poore did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The agency paid a lobbyist $15,000 to oppose the legislation in March, according to a contract obtained via a records request.

After a four-month pause on most eviction filings, OHA initiated several cases last month against public housing tenants for nonpayment of rent.

Pillen also signed a bill on Wednesday that will prohibit school districts from sending students’ school meal debts to collections agencies.

Thanks to our sponsor

Flatwater reported in February that four of the 20 largest school districts in the state used private debt collectors to recoup unpaid lunch tabs. Lincoln Public Schools, which sent nearly 1,700 meal debts to collections in 2023, suspended the practice a week after Flatwater’s story was published.

Additional Reporting

By Jeremy Turley

Jeremy Turley covers the Omaha metro area. He worked at newspapers across the Midwest before moving to Nebraska. Most recently, he shivered through several frigid winters in Bismarck, North Dakota, where he covered state government and the COVID-19 pandemic for Forum News Service. He is a graduate of the University of Missouri and a native of suburban Chicago. His hobbies include disc golfing, collecting campaign buttons and using too many em dashes — or so his editors say.


Thank goodness for your vigilance in ferreting out these situations that are so unfair & burden our citizens in need! Your exposure of these issues are making a huge difference!!!

OHA has so much more than anyine realizes wrong with the people working there, not only do they not care what happens to the people or if they’re treated fairly but they make everything very difficult to contact them and you are to go online to fill out paperwork that is time sensitive and the application has so many flaws that you can’t get it done because it freezes up or won’t let you put in information. Then you cannot reach anyone when you call not even the front desk. They treat you like you are beneath them because you’re getting the assistance.I also hate to say that this is just the tip of the iceberg there is so much more…..they need to revamp all employees and retrain….

I have acquaintances who work there and no more than any group of employees do they look down on people needing assistance. Put yourself in their place, and imagine some of their experiences. Place has always had shaky leaders



Every Friday, we’ll deliver to your inbox Nebraska’s most interesting, meaningful, deeply reported and well-written news stories.