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Louisville Affordable Housing Trust Streamlines Access to HOMEbuyer Program

The Louisville Affordable Housing Trust Fund is reworking the way it disperses money from a federal program, which will allow it to get low-income residents into housing faster.

The federally funded HOMEbuyer program provides developers with money to construct homes for low-income residents, and to help those residents find and thrive in an affordable housing setting, said Rachel Hurst, executive director of the affordable housing trust.

Hurst said the program kicked-off midway through last year and, initially, developers weren't required to respond with a full plan in place. For example, a developer could apply for funds before ensuring there were qualified families to put into the housing.

Now, at the behest of past participants in the program, Hurst said developers will need to present a complete plan to officials, which means they'll also need to be in contact with pre-qualified families who are ready to move in.

"This will allow us to make faster decisions and put the money in service much more quickly," she said.

The new allocation method will be first come, first served, Hurst said. Approved developers will be assisted with down payments, closing costs, and development subsidies to help residents pay for furniture.

Funding will be awarded in a matter of weeks, considering developers come with qualifying proposals, she said.

"All that will be needed is for the affordable housing trust fund to review it, make sure it meets compliance criteria and approve it," she said. "People could very quickly be given down payment and closing cost assistance."

The change in the way program funds are distributed doesn't necessarily mean more low income families can be served, she said. But it does mean a "faster flow" of housing fund distribution and more assurance to the families seeking affordable housing that they'll be approved.

Another positive aspect of the change, Hurst said, is that a larger pool of potential developers will now have access to the funds.

The HOMEbuyer program stems from a one-time grant—once the funds are allocated, the funding is gone. The affordable housing trust has about $400,000 remaining of the original $1 million grant. That is enough to put up to 15 families in housing, sh said.

The Louisville Affordable Housing Trust Fund does not provide loans directly to residents seeking housing, Hurst said. The trust, instead, facilitates funds and support to developers.

Louisville needs about 65,000 more affordable housing units, Hurst said. Ongoing and forthcoming initiatives, including Mayor Greg Fischer's near $12 million push to create more affordable housing, will create about 6,500 units, she said.

"That's a great start," she added. "But, it's still far short of 65,000 needed."

Hurst said she continues to advocate for a steady revenue stream for the affordable housing trust fund that would allow the group to find and put more people into affordable housing.

"When people are developing housing, we need to plan several years in advance—and that would allow them the stability to do that and meet that unmet need," she said.

Jacob Ryan is the managing editor of the Kentucky Center for Investigative reporting. He's an award-winning investigative reporter who joined LPM in 2014. Email Jacob at jryan@lpm.org.