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Gov. Beshear to direct millions in federal housing relief to Louisville

Louisville Metro Government will get millions in federal funds to support residents facing eviction and those who need help paying rent.

The need for housing assistance in Louisville is great. Last June, the state redirected $27 million from its share of federal coronavirus relief funds to help meet the demand. That was on top of about $22.8 million in rental assistance Louisville received directly. 

On Tuesday, Gov. Andy Beshear said he’s doing it again.

“We're proud to provide $27 million more to the Louisville emergency rental assistance and eviction relief efforts,” Beshear said. “An additional safety net is absolutely critical because people do fall on hard times. We want to pick them back up and make sure that we can give them the assistance that we need so they can turn their lives around.”

In total, the state has committed to provide Louisville with $54 million of its federal funds to help some renters stay in their homes. Kentucky received $264 million from the federal government for emergency rental assistance. After this allocation to Louisville and other payouts, it will have nearly $56 million remaining, which some tenants and landlords can request for utility and rent assistance.

There are two ways Jefferson County residents can access rental assistance: The Community Service Provider Program is for those at risk of getting behind on payments, and the Court Eviction Diversion Program is for people already facing eviction. 

Mayor Greg Fischer said Tuesday there are more than 2,700 pending applications. The additional funds could help the city fulfill its residents’ rental assistance needs.  

The federal money has to be spent by the end of September. However, city officials said last month they’re 12 to 14 weeks behind in processing the backlog of housing assistance applications. This could affect the city’s ability to distribute the new relief funds before they expire.

Marilyn Harris directs Develop Louisville, a Metro department that oversees all matters of housing, planning and development in the city. She told Metro Council members last month that residents facing the highest risk of losing their homes aren’t falling through the cracks. 

“The Court Eviction Diversion Program is our priority program because those people truly are literally days away from being evicted,” Harris said at a Community Affairs, Housing, Health and Education Committee meeting. “If a community service provider notifies us that any of the tenants that they have submitted to us have been turned over for eviction, we then bump them to the beginning of the line and we go ahead and process those.”

Harris blamed the slow-moving process on factors including incomplete applications and requesters having exhausted their assistance limit. She said under-staffing was a particular problem.

“We're running into errors and corrections,” Harris said at that meeting. “We have to ensure that these dollars that we are passing out, or are awarding, meet the requirements of the federal program and in many cases they don't and so we have to stop. We can't issue payments.”

Fischer said at a press conference Tuesday that, based on the volume of applications and need for assistance, the city projects it will stop accepting requests through the housing relief programs by the end of this month.

“The rental assistance programs have been a lifeline for many of our residents, and we recognize the tremendous demand still remains,” Fischer said. 

He added the city is working to pivot from offering direct rental assistance to trying to improve housing stability efforts to benefit all low-income residents. 

“More affordable housing means fewer people living beyond their means and fewer evictions. It is critical that we continue to invest in the creation and preservation of affordable housing, as well as explore other avenues to expand affordable housing in our city, such as establishing a statewide affordable housing credit,” Fischer said. 

Last year, he called for investing in affordable housing using federal relief dollars, though some advocates said that plan didn’t go far enough and that they’re focused on ensuring the city pursues developing housing that the lowest-income residents could afford.

The Metro Council subsequently passed an ordinance allocating $89 million in federal American Rescue Plan funding to address the housing crisis, which Fischer signed. The Louisville Affordable Housing Trust Fund got $40 million of that to help meet the city’s affordable housing expansion goals.