The landlord of the closed-down Yale Park Apartments has new electrical and plumbing permits for a plan to fix up the property, drawing concern from people involved in relocating 500 refugees evacuated from the complex five months ago.

Kay Anderson’s stated plan is to repair and reopen two buildings at first, then use that rental revenue to continue fixing up the remaining 11 buildings on-site, said Scott Lane, the City of Omaha’s chief housing inspector.

“We’ll obviously make him do it right with the proper contractors and the proper permits and he’s vowed to do so,” Lane said. City officials would inspect any units before tenants are allowed to move in.

Anderson has said he’d like the chance to repair and renovate his property, which racked up nearly 2,000 code violations from city inspectors for gas leaks, mold, holes in ceilings and bedbug infestations.

Calling the property a safety hazard, the city evacuated the complex’s residents, all refugees from Myanmar. Anderson has contended that the city overreacted, and that conditions weren’t as bad as portrayed. His limited liability company, AB Realty, owns the 100-unit apartment complex near 34th Avenue and Lake Street.

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Hannah Wyble is the head of refugee advocacy group Restoring Dignity, who worked with Yale Park tenants to file the initial housing complaints that triggered the city inspections and then helped residents to relocate.

Wyble said Anderson should not be allowed the opportunity to rent out apartments again after letting living conditions at Yale Park deteriorate.

“It is ridiculous and infuriating that over 500 people lost their homes because of his complete and utter negligence, and yet our laws allow him to only be fined ... and he can open the place back up and be a landlord again,” Wyble wrote in a post on the Restoring Dignity website. “This is wrong.”

She pointed to landlord licensing programs in states like Minnesota that can revoke licenses from problem landlords with a history of code violations.

“Our laws need to change,” Wyble wrote.

City officials have been debating a rental registry and inspection program, and City Council President Ben Gray said a proposal modeled after La Vista’s inspection program could come before the City Council in coming weeks.

State Sen. Justin Wayne of Omaha has proposed a similar bill that would require Omaha to conduct regular inspections of rental properties.

Landlords have pushed back against increased regulation on the city or state level, and said any extra fees would likely be passed on to tenants.

Earlier this month, the city also filed 100 criminal charges, all misdemeanors, against Anderson for violating building codes. Mayor Jean Stothert said Anderson had blown past several deadlines to make progress on the property.

He also faces a civil lawsuit from 92 former tenants seeking security deposits and other damages.

Anderson’s attorney, Jason Bruno, plans to file a federal lawsuit against the city for infringing on Anderson’s civil and property rights.

“We’re trying to resolve this issue and get the properties open again,” Bruno said. “We’ve been working, trying to resolve this situation, and we’re not getting anything from the city other than threats and criminal charges.”

Bruno said he would not comment on Restoring Dignity’s argument that Anderson should not be allowed to reopen.

Anderson also recently appealed some of the violations to the city’s property maintenance appeals board.

Lane said city inspectors will check any construction with a “fine-tooth comb” but said if the improvements check out, “we can’t stop a private owner from fixing his stuff and re-renting it.”

Gray repeated his belief that the Yale Park Apartments need to be torn down. The complex, which was called Tommie Rose Gardens Apartments before Anderson bought it in 2007, was cheaply built in the 1960s and fell into disrepair long ago, Gray said.

“That property needs to be bulldozed,” he said. “There’s no way that you’re going to bring that property back.”

Still, he concedes the city is in a tough position.

“I know we have to give him permits and follow up on the work he does,” Gray said. “But when you have an individual who has done that ... what in the world makes us think he’s not going to do that again?”

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Reporter - Education

Erin is an enterprise reporter for the World-Herald. Previously, Erin covered education. Follow her on Twitter @eduff88. Phone: 402-444-1210.

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