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Report: Aging Population Grows, Segregation Remains in Louisville

The latest report from the Metropolitan Housing Coalition shows the city's aging population is clustered and, generally, cut off from public transportation and affordable housing.

The annual report, "State of Metropolitan Housing," examines fair and affordable housing issues in the Louisville Metro area. The report takes a deep dive this year on the aging and disabled population, while continuing to highlight trends in more generalized measures of housing accessibility.

Cathy Hinko, executive director of the Metropolitan Housing Coalition, said this year's report comes as the city begins in earnest efforts to craft the next comprehensive plan, which will guide development for two decades beginning in 2020.

"We wanted to make sure we understood how many people are going to be part of our population in 2040 who are aging," she said. "It will be double what it is now."

The report shows more residents aged 50 years or older live in eastern Louisville. And residents aged 65 or older are more clustered in the northeast corner of the county.

These residents "are more likely to be located in areas that are not well served by public transportation services or have affordable housing options in their current neighborhood," the report states.

Meanwhile, residents aged 65 years or older with a disability are clustered, generally, in and around the downtown area and western Louisville neighborhoods.

The report makes several recommendations related to the attention of the city's aging population. For instance, report authors recommended that Louisville Metro government require developers getting incentives to build to include "accessibility and visitability" features in residential designs. Futher, the report stressed the need to harness the changing demographics of the city's aging population as an opportunity, not an obstacle, to "building a more inclusive, accessible living environment for everyone."

Bunched Subsidized Housing

Each year, the Metropolitan Housing Coalition examines the distribution of subsidized housing in Louisville. And each year the findings are similar.

Subsidized housing units remain tightly clustered in just a handful of Metro Council districts.

In fact, more than a quarter of all such units are located in District 4, which includes downtown, Russell and Smoketown.

"That is not accidental," Hinko said. "We've done everything in our power to herd low income people into small geographic areas."

She said the same "will" should be applied to efforts aimed at spreading out these housing units across the city.

When it comes to public housing, some 77 percent of units are situated in just two Metro Council districts (District 4 and District 6), the report shows. Districts 7, 8, 16, 17, 20 and 22 contain less than one percent of the city's 4,353 public housing units.

The coalition makes the recommendation in the report for city officials to take an aggressive approach to deconcentrate rent assisted housing.

"We have to have housing and choices for people to live everywhere," Hinko said.

Present-Day Segregation

Louisville is a city with a deep history of housing segregation and the latest report from the Metropolitan Housing Coalition shows it's a present-day problem, too.

Residents identifying as Black or African-American are clustered in the northwest corner of Louisville.

Such residents make up more than half the population in about 81 percent of all U.S. Census tracts in western Louisville. In eastern Louisville, there are 10 tracts where Black or African-American residents make up more than a quarter of population, the report shows.

Hispanic and Latino residents are the fastest growing population group in Louisville, per the report. These residents are clustered just south and east of the Louisville International Airport.

Residents living in poverty are also starkly segregated in western Louisville, according to the report. In fact, the U.S. Census tracts where 50 to 90 percent of the population live in poverty are all in western Louisville. Those tracts are in Metro Council districts 4, 5 and 6, the report shows.

Hinko said these issues can and should be addressed in the upcoming comprehensive plan. In the report recommendation, authors stated the current, soon-to-expire plan "did nothing to ameliorate this segregation."


City officials have touted recent success in developing systems to eradicate homelessness among certain groups in Louisville, like veterans.

Yet still, thousands remain without a home in the city.

The Metropolitan Housing Coalition's report found the Kentucky Department of Education and the Indiana Department of Education reported more than 7,000 students in the Louisville Metro area are considered homeless.

More than six percent of the some 96,580 students enrolled in the Jefferson County Public School district in 2015-2016 were homeless, according to the report. That's the largest percentage among the 13 county metro area.

But it's important to note that Jefferson County Public Schools uses the McKinney-Vento definition of homelessness among students. It identifies homeless students as those who lack a fixed, regular and adequate nighttime residence.

This means not every student considered homeless in Louisville is sleeping on the street or in shelters, said Giselle Danger-Mercaderes, the district's director of homeless education programs.

In fact, nearly 70 percent of the school district’s homeless students are living with family, friends or relatives, she said. Despite that, they still lack the consistency and stability a student needs to succeed in the classroom.

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.