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Council Approves Incentives For Affordable Housing

Developers now have more reason to build affordable housing across Jefferson County.

Louisville's Metro Council on Thursday voted 18-2 to approve an ordinance that will allow developers to build multi-family residential housing in areas zoned specifically for single-family dwellings without a zoning change, removing a barrier to a more geographically diverse deployment of affordable housing.

The ordinance will also give developers incentives to build such mixed housing options at varying price points.

For developers to get the density incentive, at least 10 percent of a development’s units would need to be multi-family, and at least 5 percent of those would need to be affordable. That means rent levels could not exceed the Low Income Housing Tax Credit maximum, or affordable to people earning less than 60 percent of the median income of the metro area.

The mixed residential development incentive will also allow developers to exceed the city's density threshold, which could enable them to boost the return on their investment.

The incentive is one of three major concepts that emerged after nearly two years of conversation and debate by a 44-member fair and affordable housing subcommittee established by the council.

Cathy Hinko, executive director of the Metropolitan Housing Coalition, said the ordinance is an important step toward reversing the effects of past zoning policies that led to sharp segregation in the city.

“It’s a pretty significant measure,” Hinko said of the ordinance.

Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer said in an interview Thursday he commends the ad hoc committee that advanced the ordinance after months of deliberation.

“The data shows that having affordable housing throughout the community lifts everybody up, both educationally and from an income standpoint," he said.

Council President David Tandy, a District 4 Democrat, said the ordinance gives Louisville's poorer residents more access to opportunity.

"Putting people closer to where they work and making it easier for people to spend less of their money on housing [will] help them find that upward mobility," he said.

Councilwoman Julie Denton, a District 19 Republican, voted against the ordinance. At a council meeting Thursday, she called the incentives "window dressing" and said she is skeptical that developers would use the incentives.

"I have concern that this isn't going to accomplish much," she said.

James Peden, a District 23 Republican, also voted against the ordinance.

Councilman Bill Hollander, a District 9 Democrat, supported the ordinance. He said he doesn't believe it will solve the issue of housing segregation in Louisville, but it's a step in the right direction.

"We have to do something," he said.

Jacob Ryan joined LPM in 2014. Ryan is originally from Eddyville, Kentucky. Email Jacob at jryan@lpm.org.