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Affordable Housing Advocates Take Support To Mayor's Office

A stack of support for funding Louisville's affordable housing trust fund has made its way to the Mayor's office.

More than 1,000 signed letters calling for a $5 million budget allocation for the trust fund were delivered to Mayor Greg Fischer Tuesday morning.

A dozen or so supporters gathered on the steps of City Hall before the letters were dropped off in Fischer's office by Metro Councilman Bill Hollander; Christie McCravy, executive director of the Louisville Affordable Housing Trust Fund; and Beverly Duncan, co-president of C.L.O.U.T, a local advocacy group.

Fischer did not personally receive the letters.

Funding the city's affordable housing trust fund has remained a focus of housing advocates since it's creation by the Metro Council in 2008.

Lexington and Nashville are boosting stocks of affordable housing in their respective cities through similar trust fund models.

More than 430 affordable housing units have been built or renovated since Lexington lawmakers began allocating taxpayer money to that city's trust fund in 2014, said Rick McQuady, director of the Lexington Affordable Housing Trust Fund.

By comparison, the Louisville Affordable Housing Trust Fund has financed 39 units since its inception in 2008, according to Christie McCravy, the fund’s director.

Affordable housing supporters in Louisville have long called for a one percent hike in the city's insurance premium tax, which some claim would generate about $10 million annually for the trust fund.

Such a tax is struggling to gain support among council members, however. And McCravy said some questions exist regarding how the tax would be administered across the city. She said it's unclear if suburban cities would be required to direct revenue from the tax to affordable housing. McCravy is also concerned about who would be hit the hardest by a tax increase.

For that, she said a $5 million allocation in the upcoming budget cycle is seen as a down payment, of sorts. With such an allocation, the trust fund could finance the construction or rehabilitation of more than 100 units for families currently struggling to pay their bills.

She said advocates will settle for less than $5 million. Yet, she added, if Fischer moves to include the full $5 million in the city's upcoming budget, it would send a message that housing is a priority for everyone.

"By funding the trust fund you are really putting compassion at the highest level," she said.

McCravy said if city leaders can support giving tax incentives for certain projects— like the Omni hotel and apartment development, which is getting nearly $140 million in tax breaks for building a some 30-story building along Third Street — they should also support funding the affordable housing trust fund.

"We have a tagline of being a compassionate city," she said. "You can't be compassionate if you've got people you're walking over while your're trying to get to your luxury amenities."

Councilman Hollander, a Democrat representing District 9, said there is strong support on the council for boosting the city's stock of affordable housing.

"I think everyone recognizes the need," he said.

Families that spend more than 30 percent of their income on housing are considered by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to be cost-burdened. They may struggle to afford other necessities such as food, clothing and medical care.

It's estimated nearly 60,000 households in Louisville spend more than 30 percent of their income on housing, and nearly 24,000 of those spend at least 50 percent of their income on housing, according to U.S. Census data.

In recent months, the council has pushed an agenda focused on getting more money for infrastructurerepair across the city. Louisville Metro faces a near $300 million deficitwhen it comes to roads, sidewalk and bridge repair.

Hollander dismissed the notion that putting money towards the affordable housing trust fund would take money away from efforts to pave roads and fix sidewalks.

He said city revenue is growing, meaning there's enough money to fund infrastructure repair and affordable housing.

"This isn't an either-or, it's a both-and situation," he said.

Beverly Duncan, the co-president of advocacy group Citizens of Louisville Organized and United Together, said affordable housing is infrastructure and should be given priority over roads or bridges.

"We're saying people are more important than pavement and sidewalks."

A spokesman for the mayor did not respond to a request for comment about funding the city's affordable housing trust fund in the upcoming budget cycle. The budget is due to Metro Council May 26.

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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