Article: Palma Joy Strand, “‘Mirror, Mirror, on the Wall…’: Reflections on Fairness and Housing in the Omaha-Council Bluffs Region,” Creighton Law Review (forthcoming).
In 2016, eighty years after the federal Home Owners Loan Corporation (HOLC) drew redlining maps that solidified existing local segregation and gave the green light to suburban development, the residential patterns of race and socioeconomics in the Omaha, Nebraska, region embody those New Deal decisions. Inspired by recent regulations from HUD that intensify the agency’s responsibility under the Fair Housing Act to Affirmatively Further Fair Housing, this article looks past current inequities in housing to the institutional structures that facilitated White suburban growth after World War II. Special districts known as Sanitary and Improvement Districts (SIDs) gave – and continue to give today – private developers access to municipal bonds without significant public oversight. Historically, these SIDs provided market-rate housing to exclusively White residents; today they provide market-rate housing to predominantly White residents. Following SID development, the City of Omaha, which has extensive annexation powers under state law, annexes the SIDs, absorbing both their tax base and their remaining debt. This article describes this SID annexation development regime and the ways in which it diffuses responsibility for providing affordable housing and access to neighborhoods of opportunity throughout the metropolitan region. The article proposes an accounting and reconsideration of the existing development regime.