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Housing Coalition to Host Vacant Properties Summit

With lower property values and a lack of affordable housing plaguing the city, the Louisville Metropolitan Housing Coalition hopes an upcoming summit will address the growing crisis.A January report prepared by the non-profit group revealed the majority of vacant homes are concentrated in west Louisville. The 2010 Census confirmed the report’s data and found swaths in the Shawnee and Portland neighborhood where 27 percent of homes were vacant.Coalition program director Doug Magee says the summit is a chance for activists and business leaders to come together and develop creative solutions."We’re hoping that the summit is going to be an opportunity for both community activists and developers to take these issues seriously and talk to each other," he says. "If there’s a problem with one method maybe people who have a different view if we’re talking to each other then perhaps we can create some solutions around these vacant problems."Residents are encouraged to sign-up and voice concerns about blighted properties in their neighborhood. The morning and afternoon sessions will consist of Metro officials and housing advocates making their recommendations followed by discussions to develop solutions.Over the past few months, city leaders have stepped up efforts to bring attention and ideas to the issue.In October, the Metro Council published a list of so-called deadbeat landlords in the newspaper to shame them into taking better care of their properties.During the campaign, Mayor Greg Fischer unveiled an ambitions neighborhoods plan that included selling abandoned homes for $1 and providing no-interest loans to prospective buyers for rehabilitation.That idea turned out to be a little more difficult than then-candidate Fischer thought and involves roadblocks from state government.From LEO Weekly:“The big issue for us with vacant properties is that Kentucky is a very pro-property rights state,” (mayoral spokesman Chris) Poynter says. “So it’s not easy to get control of these properties … we really need help from the state to give us more authority to do stuff on the ground, because we just can’t go in and take a property. It’s quite a lengthy legal process.”

Magee concurs changing state law would be difficult, but says the city could bend other policies to address vacant properties at the grassroots level while engaging neighborhood groups.“The city by putting more effort into the land bank and be strategic about it, work specifically with neighborhoods where the problem exists the most. Like say in the West End, work with the neighborhood associations. They know on the ground which are the most problematic vacant properties,” he says.The summit is Thursday, April 28 at the Memorial Auditorium on 970 S. 4th Street from 9:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.