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How To Create A Cycle Of Prosperity Using Affordable Housing In Louisville

A worker stays busy on a home renovation in Fairdale.
A worker stays busy on a home renovation in Fairdale.

Deondrea Robinson had seen worse.

With more than eight years in the home renovation business, Robinson has come across her share of houses in disrepair. But the small ranch house on Kenney Blvd at the north edge of Fairdale didn't stand out -- despite its vacant status.

Robinson's small construction crew was hired to overhaul the house. New roof, new HVAC, new insulation. They added a bedroom and bathroom, and on a recent weekday they were covered in dust and busy hanging drywall.

"It's going to be a very solid house for the homeowner," Robinson said.

There are more than 5,000 vacant structures standing across Louisville, according to a recent report from the city's Vacant and Public Property Administration. The blight that comes with these properties continues to vex city officials and casts a gloomy cloud over some neighborhoods.

But some of these vacant houses are getting a second chance thanks to growing support for boosting the city's stock of affordable housing.

Some 60,000 households in Louisville are burdened by high housing costs, according to data from the U.S. Census. City officials are slowly making progress toward addressing the issue.

Last year, Mayor Greg Fischer proposed and the Metro Council approved a budget with a $2.5 million allotment for the city's affordable housing trust fund. The move was the biggest one-time investment to date for the trust fund. Housing advocates praise the funding, but they say more must come to meet the growing need for affordable housing in Louisville.

Buying Local in Renovations

Christie McCravy, executive director of the Louisville Affordable Housing Trust Fund, said investing in affordable housing can lead to a cycle of prosperity.

For starters, low-income families can get access to affordable homes, a key driver of economic stability and upward mobility. Flipping abandoned houses into affordable homes can uplift neighborhoods burdened by blight, which left to fester can lead to crime and violence.

When the trust fund has money, it's often small businesses like Robinson's that get the call to do the work. This, in turn, puts more money into the local economy by ensuring local workers get paychecks and skills to provide for themselves, their families and their neighborhoods.

"It’s a cycle," McCravy said. "A win-win."

Robinson, 37, started her construction company after more than a decade of working in human resources for the state. She found joy in doing renovation work at her own home with her husband, William, so she decided to make it a career.

In 2009, she started Jump Start Realty and Development. Since then, Robinson said she's gotten plenty of work through city-funded programs that focus on breathing new life into busted-up homes.

Covered in dust, yelling over a blaring saw in the next room, Robinson said the work is satisfying. In just a few weeks, their job here will be complete and the house will again become a home.

It's slated to be purchased by a local artist and will be the newest addition in the city's slowly growing stock of affordable housing.

"This is really kind of a passion of mine," Robinson said. "To have the opportunity to make an impact on a person’s life."

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.