An inspector examines under kitchen cabinets at the Yale Park Apartments at 34th and Lake Streets in September 2018.

The same City Council majority that approved Omaha’s new landlord registry and rental inspections ordinance wants the city to hire one more housing inspector than Mayor Jean Stothert says the city needs in 2020.

Council members Ben Gray, Pete Festersen and Chris Jerram plan to sponsor a budget amendment to add the additional inspector, The World-Herald has learned. Councilman Vinny Palermo says he supports the move.

This comes after tenant advocates on Tuesday asked the council to fund more inspectors in 2020 to help the city keep better tabs on problematic landlords and properties. Many of the same people pushed for the rental ordinance.

The new rental ordinance requires Omaha landlords to register with the city in 2020 and ratchets up inspections of problem properties. It requires inspections of nearly all local rental properties once a decade starting in 2022.

Much local attention on the conditions of some rental properties followed the city’s actions at Yale Park Apartments, where inspectors last September found thousands of alleged housing code violations. About 500 tenants had to be relocated.

Working with the city and its inspectors, some of the units at Yale Park have been brought back for rent, said Dave Fanslau, the city planning director.

Today, the Planning Department enforces local housing rules with nine city inspectors.

Stothert’s 2020 budget proposes adding a single inspector, to give the department 10. The council wants to increase that number to 11.

Said Stothert: “If we would’ve needed more, we would’ve budgeted them.”

The council and mayor agree on the need for more inspectors under the law. They disagree on when the city needs them.

A council majority echoes those who want more in place soon, including Omaha Together One Community, a local group that advocates often for people in poverty. OTOC leaders have criticized the city for not hiring enough inspectors even when it had the funding to do so.

“We have major code issues in the city, and this could only help that,” Festersen said about adding the eleventh inspector. “Advocates are looking for a sign that we are moving forward with the implementation.”

Stothert has said she plans to add five inspectors by 2022, when the new law’s mandatory inspections take effect. She wants to add one inspector in 2020 and two each in 2021 and 2022. Each new inspector position costs about $76,505, including salary and benefits.

The Planning Department tracks inspectors’ open cases and workloads. Both are trending in the right direction, department leaders say.

The city had only six inspectors as recently as two years ago. Over the past year, the department filled three inspector positions that the city had funded but not filled, department leaders say.

Housing inspectors investigate, based on complaints received, problems in apartments and rental houses and work with landlords to get them corrected. They refer cases that can’t be resolved for prosecution by the City Attorney’s Office.

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