OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — The Omaha area's historically low cost of living is on the rise, largely due to increased demand for housing that has driven up the cost of buying or renting a home, a newspaper reported.

Omaha's cost of living is still 95 percent the national average, making it an affordable alternative to larger cities on the coasts, the Omaha World-Herald reported. But it's no longer as competitive when compared to other Midwestern cities, such as Oklahoma City, which is at 85 percent of the national average.

The shift means a person's salary doesn't go as far as it used to, said David Drozd, a research coordinator for the Center for Public Affairs Research at the University of Nebraska at Omaha.

The Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce is looking for ways to address the cost of living shift, as the area is also dealing with a labor shortage because workers have been leaving the state.

The area's relatively low wages are a main concern, said David Brown, the chamber's president and CEO. Omaha has long been able to justify offering workers lower wages because of the low cost of living, but Brown said the chamber believes that rationale is no longer valid.

Omaha can keep costs down by remaining competitive in terms of regulations and costs placed on small businesses, stores and service providers, said Eric Thompson, director of the Bureau of Business Research at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

Thompson said that despite the cost of living increase, the city is making strides in the innovation and technology sector.

"There's some positive developments occurring at the same time as that," he said.

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Information from: Omaha World-Herald, http://www.omaha.com

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