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Renovated Affordable Housing Complex in Louisville Brings Hope For Residents

Mary Cooksey had a tough time getting a pizza delivered to Kingston Park apartments.

"They said they won't come in Kingston," she said.

Cooksey, 51, said crime plagued the apartment complex in Louisville's Southside neighborhood. Prostitutes and drug dealers lurked within view of her own living room window. When her two kids came home from school, she made them stay indoors.

The complex is undergoing a $30-million renovations effort led by the development firm Underhill Associates. It also has a new name — Heritage Green.

The renovation is funded by a mix of tax credits and bond incentives, said Todd Underhill, a principal broker for the real estate company. Under the terms of the tax credits, nearly all of the 560 units must be affordable to people who earn 30 percent or less of the area's median income.

Alos, four of the units are being funded by the city's Affordable Housing Trust Fund through a $110,000 revolving loan, said Rachel Hurst, executive director of the trust fund.

Underhill said his group will work with Catholic Charities and Refugee Ministries of Kentucky to make a bulk of the new units available to the city's immigrant population.

One-, two- and three- bedroom units are available and each will be outfitted with energy efficient appliances, Underhill said.

A community park featuring sports fields, walking paths and play space is also planned for the finished development.
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Hurst said the renovation of so many units is a major step towards meeting the need of affordable housing in the city.

But she said Louisville needs an estimated 65,000 affordable units, and nearly 18,000 people are waiting for housing assistance.

The renovation of Heritage Green is expected to be complete by April 2016, Underhill said. About a dozen tenants have already moved in and nearly 50 more are awaiting the completion of the next batch of units.

Underhill said his group will manage the property once the renovation is complete. Residents with Section 8 vouchers and other housing subsidies will be accepted in the new units, he said. And all aspiring tenants will be thoroughly vetted to ensure they qualify financially and don't have extensive criminal backgrounds, he said.

Mary Cooksey said the background checks are important. She said the complex wasn't a pleasant place before the renovation efforts  began.

She moved into one of the renovated units three days ago.

She said she's no longer worried about her two teenaged kids being outside when they get home from school.

"It's totally different," she said, adding that it can stay this way as long as the people respect each other, communicate and take pride in their new homes.

She said she also likes the cultural diversity of the complex. She said her kids are humbled by the stories of some of the neighbors from Somalia and Iraq.

And for the first time in years, Cooksey has her own washer and dryer.

They sit next to her new bedroom and adjacent to her new kitchen.

She said it feels good to have these things. Little things, she said, that people often take for granted.

And when it comes to a meal, she won't bother with delivery. She's got a brand new stove.

"I'll make my own pizza," 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.

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