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How Much Should The City Spend On Affordable Housing?

Affordable housing got a boost in this year's city spending plan.
Affordable housing got a boost in this year's city spending plan.

After a week off, the Louisville Metro Council will resume budget discussions this week.

First up on the agenda is the city's affordable housing trust fund, which is slated to receive $2.5 million for the upcoming fiscal year under Mayor Greg Fischer's budget proposal.

The trust fund was established in 2008 by the Metro Council. The original ordinance called for an annual allotment of $10 million to fund the initiative.

But funding levels have yet to meet that mark.

The current proposal of $2.5 million mirrors Fischer's allocation from last year, which at the time was the largest one-time investment in the fund.

Housing advocates often pack City Hall during Metro Council meetings to call for additional funding. The trust fund facilitates development and rehabilitation of affordable housing by making grants and loans, providing technical support, and enabling builders and developers to construct affordable housing with less financial risk, according to its website.

To date, the fund has assisted financing for 38 affordable units and is eyeing finance options on more than 300 additional units, according to the group's website.

The need for affordable housing in Louisville is significant.

Nearly 60,000 households here 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.

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.

Some council members are looking to push for more funding to support affordable housing.

Councilman Brent Ackerson, a Democrat from District 26, issued a press release earlier this month calling for some $3 million to be added to the trust fund's allocation. He wants to take it from the Louisville CARES program, a revolving loan fund introduced by Fischer in 2015 to help bolster the city's stock of affordable housing.

Fischer is proposing a $12 million bond to further that program in his current spending plan.

Ackerson said moving money from the Louisville CARES program to the trust fund would "move us closer to the vision of the Metro Council from 2008 and toward a more realistic and permanent fund to serve the needs of this community.”

Councilman Bill Hollander, chair of the council's majority Democratic caucus and a staunch supporter of affordable housing, said Ackerson is "right that the trust fund needs a higher funding level."

But he's hesitant to back Ackerson's plan to strip funding from the Louisville CARES program.

"We are fortunate to be debating how a very large appropriation for affordable housing is split and not whether we should be funding affordable housing at all," he said. "That's progress."

The council has been examining Fischer's proposed spending plan since early May. They've held public discussions with agency heads and will continue to do so before casting their final votes on the budget June 22.

This week, council members are also scheduled to hear from leaders from the city's economic development department, zoo and fire department.

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.