A recent Local View by members of Renters Together ("Affordable housing needed, not study," Jan. 16) was a passionate appeal for the city to do more to address the need for affordable housing and to strengthen the protections for renters. The group’s ideas are a welcome addition to the work already in progress.

We should first put our progress in better perspective. Lincoln today is one of the most affordable cities in the nation both for homeowners and for renters. Any way you look at the problem, Lincoln compares extraordinary well to other cities. Affordable housing is a growing challenge across the country primarily because of federal policies causing income growth to fall behind housing costs.

Even so, statistics show that owning a home or renting in Lincoln continues to be remarkably affordable compared to other cities. Our work is to help keep it that way. The city serves an important role coordinating community challenges like these.

That’s why I have directed city departments to develop the Lincoln Affordable Housing Coordinated Action Plan specifically to implement both short- and long-term actions to improve, protect and create affordable housing here in Lincoln. The work will include analysis of what is working and what more should be done.

The plan will also coordinate programs, policies and resources among public, private, nonprofit and community groups to ensure we are focused on high-impact comprehensive solutions. Our existing partners are ready to work, and I invite our new community advocates to become part of the team.

The city partners with organizations like NeighborWorks Lincoln, Habitat for Humanity, Community Action Partnership, Lincoln Housing Authority and many others to shelter the homeless, educate tenants and improve housing affordability.

These partnerships are paying dividends for Lincoln:

* The city and the South of Downtown Community Development Organization are partnering on a community land trust pilot program that would focus on quality affordable rental housing.

* The city has been helping the Lincoln Housing Authority develop additional new affordable units in both the center of Lincoln and in new edge neighborhoods.

* To make homes safer and more livable, we are working with neighborhood leaders to identify more conditions that will trigger additional housing inspections for problem properties.

* The city has identified and dedicated additional fiscal resources from tax-increment financing and turnback tax funds to go toward or with affordable housing initiatives.

* The city is expanding its tenant education and advocacy efforts to ensure both owners and renters understand their rights and responsibilities.

These efforts are vital to increasing the amount of quality affordable housing stock in the community. But we are looking to do even more.

It is clear that affordable housing must be addressed in multiple ways on multiple fronts.

However, if we replicate existing efforts and fail to coordinate our initiatives, we waste precious funds and dilute the impact of our actions. The Lincoln Affordable Housing Coordinated Action Plan will unite and focus our efforts to build on what is already working to make even more progress.

Lincoln continues to succeed because we partner across all community sectors to tackle big issues and create opportunities for everyone. Together, we can ensure that quality affordable housing continues to be a cornerstone of our high quality of life here in Lincoln.

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Chris Beutler is the mayor of Lincoln.


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